7 September – 19 October 2019, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
Preview: 6 September, 7-9 pm
Tanya Leighton is pleased to present ‘Fabula Rasa’ — a group exhibition that investigates the literary form of the fable from six artistic positions. Recognising the blend of animate and inanimate objects that lays at the core of fables, ‘Fabula Rasa’ focuses on the potential of this interplay to critically reflect the human condition.
The exhibition title is a word play on the concept of the clean slate or ‘tabula rasa’. Life begins without knowledge and lived experience grows our understanding of the world. As much as fables relay shared memories and moral values, they also offer a way to recalibrate ourselves. The works in the exhibition propose perspectives from which to do so.
Sam Anderson’s interest in the dramaturgical narratives of everyday life often leads her to the recast characters that traditionally play set roles. In this case, the tragic-comic figure of the clown, a figure who both entertains and critiques society, is her subject. Both an outsider and an integral part of a community, the classic humorist tells fables of everyday life to question the ways we live together. This ‘clown’, however, is a fabulous and somewhat menacing caricature of itself — a replica dolphin scull, masked with a teardrop, a red nose, and a row of teeth so long it is hard to discern a smile or a grimace.
Antonio Ballester Moreno’s pictographic paintings are distillations of the fundamental ways in which humanity defines itself in relation to the larger world — knowledge, morality and the nature of being. Ballester Moreno’s geometric forms and palette of primary colours speak to an archaic image-memory, exploring what it actually means to be humane. Trees, mountains, moons and suns constitute a universal lexicon while echoing the building blocks of the ancient fable.
The hand-painted animation by Matt Copson introduces archetypal figures from European mythologies into a dystopian limbo. Here, a headless fox circles a maniacally self-obsessed woodpecker whose monologue details a compulsion to define the object of its love. As an allegory for the artist at work or sociopathic manoeuvring, Copson’s parable delivers an unsettling moral about how we relate to the world around us.
Notions of physical malady recur in the work of Jesse Darling. A winding crutch and a bent walking stick emerge like charmed snakes from an altar-like pedestal that floats above the ground. Part of Darling’s larger project, ‘The Ballad of Saint Jerome’, this sculpture retools the eponymous fable to examine the contemporary relationship between healer and healed.
Michael Dean’s sculptures begin in the realm of language – as a means of expressing love, anger, or grasping for understanding. In their translation from text to thing, Dean’s objects and icons become stand-ins for larger narratives. Considering what it means to create a physical extension of oneself, Dean’s concrete and rebar sculptures are human-scaled, bear traces of their making, and introduce new anthropomorphous characters into the exhibition space.
Staring into space through hollow eyes, the vacant, thinking and feeling figure by Austrian artist Heinz Frank is a residue of a body in distress. Part tree, part box, part mask and part spine, its anatomy consists of natural and artificial components that deconstruct the impressive mythical figure of the lion to an assemblage of objects — some quotidian, some bizarre.
Paris Internationale 2019
16 – 20 October 2019
Preview: 15 October
At Kurfürstenstraße 156
From 2 November 2019
Christine Roland & Ruby Barber
At Kurfürstenstraße 156
From 2 November 2019
Gerasimos Floratos Kurfürstenstraße 24/25 Preview: Friday 25 October 2019, 7-9pm
IMAGE (of) SILENCE, curated by Adam Budak
National Gallery Prague
20 September 2019 – 5 January 2020
Bauhaus: Utopia in Crisis, curated by Professor Daniel Sturgis
Camberwell Space, Camberwell College of Arts
16 September – 9 November 2019
Bauhaus: Utopia in Crisis, curated by Professor Daniel Sturgis, Bauhaus University, Weimar
Opening January 2020
David Diao, 2018
Delmonico books — Prestel
With contributions from Philip Tinari, Michael Corris, Pi Li, Sarah K. Rich, Felicia Chen, Kerry Doran
The Politics of Rhetoric
The Print Center, Philadelphia
13 September – 16 November 2019
Phaidon Contemporary Artist Series
Text by Julia Bryan-Wilson, Jeannine Tang, and Lanka Tattersall
MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, curated by Susanne Pfeffer with Anna Sailer
17 August 2019 – 16 February 2020
Out Of Order. Positions from the Haubrok Collection (Part I)
Neues Museum Nürnberg
25 October 2019 – 6 January 2020
Travelling Exhibitions Programme of 33rd Bienal de São Paulo
Museo de Antioquia, Medellín, Colombia
21 November 2019 – 26 January 2020
Infinite Sculpture: From the Antique Cast to the 3D Scan
Co-produced by the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisboa and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris
3 December 2019 – 16 February 2020
Beethoven – World.Citizen.Music Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn
17 December 2019 – 26 April 2020
...and other such stories
Chicago Architecture Biennial
19 September 2019 – 5 January 2020
Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s. Works from the VERBUND COLLECTION, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Spain
19 July – 1 December 2019
Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin, established in 2008, is dedicated to developing a cross-disciplinary, trans-generational gallery programme with off-site projects, in collaboration with artists, filmmakers, critics, art historians, and curators. Its international exhibition programme reflects a variety of opinions and practices as well as Leighton’s associations with American and British experimental cinema, artist’s film and video, performance, minimal and conceptual art.
Director: Simon Gowing
Director: Patrick Armstrong
Project Manager: Marie Egger
Gallery Manager: Melanie Isabel García
Registrar: Henry Babbage
Finance Manager: Stefan Schuster
Tanya Leighton GmbH
Kurfürstenstraße 156 & 24/25
Open Tuesday – Saturday
11am – 6pm and by appointment
David Bellingham, Pierre Bismuth, Pavel Büchler, Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, Sean Edwards, Harald Falkenhagen, Leo Fitzmaurice, Dean Hughes, Jonathan Monk, Martine Myrup, Bruce McLean, Maeve Rendle, Pamela Rosenkranz, Amikam Toren, Steven van den Bosch
The Way We Do Art Now
1 May – 5 June 2010, Tanya Leighton, Berlin
"There's a story about a Roman wall painter who tried and tried to paint the foam on a horse's mouth. He just couldn't get it right. And in disgust, he threw a sponge at the horse and the sponge left a mark right on the horse's nostril that looked exactly like the foam. And so, he simply added a few more strokes and he had a perfect representation of the foam he had worked so hard to depict. This is probably the birth of abstract art and it is probably the beginning of how we do art now." - John Baldessari, The Way We Do Art Now (The Birth of Abstract Art), 1973
The works in 'The Way We Do Art Now', an exhibition selected by Pavel Büchler for Tanya Leighton Gallery, have come together through Büchler's preference for art that resists the egocentrism of 'expression' by the modesty of the artist's gesture. They were made at various times over the past forty years, by a dozen artists from the UK and continental Europe, better or less well known, whose individual practices and artistic priorities have little in common, yet they share a commitment to an economy of means and scale, and a sense of understatement with which they encourage our curiosity and provoke imagination.
In their diverse ways, the works explore what artists do and how they go about doing it, how they make sense by insisting on doing what ostensively makes no sense in itself. Some seem to promote idleness, even boredom, as if to evade the banality of production and cultural waste; others do what it takes and embrace with overt determination the futility of artistic labour, the paradox of a job not really worth doing but needing to be done nonetheless.
From the earliest work in the exhibition, Bruce McLean's irreverent film 'homage' to Robert Morris In The Shadow of Your Smile, Bob, 1970, to the most recent one, Büchler's own watercolour rendering of the typewritten film title of John Baldessari's The Way We Do Art Now, many of the works acknowledge the Beckettian spirit of the challenge of art itself and of its recent history. Equally many, like those of Amikam Toren or David Bellingham, for instance, meticulously transform objects into ideas only to let the object determine the outcome.
There are echoes and resonances between such works as Pierre Bismuth's unfolded origamis and Martine Myrup's mountain range raising from the fragments of pictures on the spines of a small arrangements of books on a shelf, or between Harald Falkenhagen's rapidly noted inconsequential comments on weather ('yesterday, today and tomorrow') and Dean Hughes' refilling of dried out puddles on a rare sunny morning in Edinburgh. But such provisional connections and ephemeral coincidences offer no guidance to the interpretation of the works on display nor do they diminish the distance between the work done by the artists and that left to the viewers to do. For Büchler, they are at best like the rhymes in a poem: to entice thinking and perhaps aid the memory of the moment once the exhibition is gone and the works are on their way to their next destinations.
The Way We Do Art Now
Frieze, June/July/August, 2010
The idea of art as something one may ‘do’ rather than ‘make’ has its roots in the 1960s, when Conceptual art turned art-making on its head, allowing all sorts of unlikely practices into its remit, like reading, writing, video-making, performing or even happening. The title of this exhibition, ‘The Way We Do Art Now’, is borrowed from John Baldessari’s 1973 film, a spoof on the endless possibilities of art practice in which ‘the birth of abstract art and […] probably the beginning of how we do art now’ is described in anecdotal form as occurring when an ancient Roman wall painter threw a sponge at his painting in frustration, and through this act achieved the effect he had been searching for.
The Way We Do Art (after John Baldessari) (2010) is also the title of a work in the show by UK-based Czech artist Pavel Büchler, who curated the exhibition of 16 artists. The title is painted in watercolour on a large piece of paper, copied from the typed-out title as it appears in Baldessari’s film. Reference, practice and subject are all tied together in a tight conceptual knot – characteristics that come up in many of the works Büchler chose for this subtly thought provoking show.
The exhibition opened during the fourth edition of Berlin’s annual Gallery Weekend, a coordinated opening of exhibitions at some 40 participating galleries, with many other galleries (including this one) organizing concurrent events for the throngs of visitors descending on the city. In the face of the prodigious scale of this extravaganza, in which the great quantity of art production and its attendant mediation was a ready distraction from critical discernment, this exhibition posed pertinent questions about the ways and means and, crucially, the why of art making now. Though the works were mostly modest in scale and execution, the show possessed an ambitious concept and brought together a tight if disparate collection of works that mined a post-Conceptual vein, while resisting any notion of a separation between art and life.
Method, medium and meaning converge in many of the works. Jonathan Monk’s tautological film Two Correlated Rotations (2004), a 16mm film on a simple looping machine documenting the construction of the very looping machine itself, is like a filmic version of Robert Morris’ seminal Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961), whereby the medium seems to meditate on its own origins. Morris’ legacy is also to be found in the projection of Bruce McLean’s little known early film In the Shadow of Your Smile, Bob (1970), where, in a spoken commentary, McLean and a fellow Scot analyze the poses and gestures of his filmed image, in a tongue-incheek Morris-esque mind/body disconnect. The ‘anything goes’ nature of Conceptual art is both satirized and utilized.
Many works here have to do with the activities of everyday life. Amikam Toren’s Black Hole (1997–2006), for instance, in which the artist’s peeling of his daily orange becomes a way to explore the spiral form, and the collection of ten years of dried out, curving orange peels – shoved into a bin bag and placed on the floor – becomes a concentrated elegy about the passing of time and the ongoing, quotidian nature of artistic practice. Likewise, Dean Hughes’ embroidery of the seat of the bus he took every day, subtle to the point of invisibility, points to both the normalcy, repetition and work-like quality of ‘doing’ art, but enhances these qualities so that they themselves become the subject, paradoxically revealing their own potential and quiet beauty (Embroidery Thread on a London Bus Seat, 1993–6).
Amongst the most succinct works are Pierre Bismuth’s Unfolded Origami – Lampion and Unfolded Origami – Tortue (both 2003), a pair of found posters, each showing a tropical island, framed but still bearing the folded traces of their previous incarnations as, respectively, origami lantern and origami turtle. Thoughts about the potential of found material, the creative impulse to transform matter, the intellectual desire to rationalize and object-image relations, gather and dissipate around these light-footed works.
In this multi-generational exhibition, Büchler is not concerned with discovering talents new or old, but rather revealing the simple continuity that the making of art involves, particularly in a time when ‘artist’ seems to rank as a profession alongside other conventional career choices. With a welcome levity, it shows that being an artist is not an escape from everyday life so much as a harnessing of it. As he does in his own often physically unassuming but deeply considered artworks, Büchler allows the works here to demonstrate the artist’s contemplation and probing of the fabric of life. Despite its sometimes tautological appearance, this is not ‘art about art’, but very much ‘art about doing art’.