Artists: Josef Albers, Amish People, Joe Baer, Robert Barry, Karl Benjamin, Greg Bogin, Ilya Bolotowsky, Krysten Cunningham, Gene Davis, Adolf Richard Fleischmann, Andrea Fraser, Michelle Grabner, Marcia Hafif, Peter Halley, Frederick Hammersley, Michael Heizer, Al Held, Nic Hess, Donald Judd, Alexander Liberman, Sylan Lionni, John McLaughlin, Kenneth Noland, David Novros, Robert Ryman, Tom Sachs, Oli Shivonen, John Tremblay, Larry Zox.
Swiss artist Nic Hess has ‘mashed-up’ a selection of American painting from the Daimler Collection of Modern Art (West Coast; Washington Colour School; Systemic Painting; New York School). A quick google shows that Hess’s art as a whole clearly borrows from the punning humour and wall-occupying tendencies of much street-art, and shares its symbiotic relation with ‘poppy’ graphic design. From the install shots the exhibition is obviously (heavy-handedly?) irreverent, a shaking up of a ‘reliable brand [that has a] predictability that is comforting, if slightly boring’, as Artslant put it. It reminded me of Dan Sturgis’s The Indiscipline of Painting; Lothar Götz’s installation at Domo Baal at the end of last year; or Haroon Mirza at the Hepworth – though I’m sure examples could multiply. From what I can tell the painting by Oli Sihvonen above was originally intended as a flat on the wall diptych, and its panels have been reversed. The press-release (reproduced below) describes the exhibition as a piece ‘reflecting critical attitudes to art institutions’. This seems to me disingenuous. From the installation images the work seems formalist (a word which can take on a variety of different meanings!) rather than critical. Hess visually riffs on the paintings in the collection, rather than (as far as I can see) presenting any obviously intelligible criticism of the institution which houses them.
“Ever since the late 1990s, Nic Hess has been using industrial paint, collaged images and coloured tapes, light projections and neon elements to take possession, both intellectually and in real terms, of walls and ceilings – and of entire rooms. The artist takes logos from the commercial world (deployed in symbolic excerpts and in an alienating manner) and icons from art history and political and economic phenomena, and uses his pictorial language, which drifts freely between abstraction, ornamentation and figuration, to compose a unified visual choerography. For this purpose Nic Hess adapts contemporary phenomena in the political, art-historical or economic context – never without a touch of humour or a critical subtext.”
“The exhibition at Haus Huth represents a further step in this direction: in collaboration with Renate Wiehager, Nic Hess will stage an exhibition on Abstract art in the USA from 1950 to the present day. Thereby Hess not only creates a drawing installation in a site-specific manner, which responds to the architecture of the Daimler Contemporary space, but for the first time also reacts on contentual [sic] assumptions and curatorial specifications.”
“Until the mid-1980s, the European avant-garde provided the primary focus for the Daimler Art Collection. This was to change in 1986, when Andy Warhol was commissioned to create the series of images entitled CARS. The collection has since become increasingly open to American contemporary art. The focus is twofold: on the one hand, tendencies in abstraction and in minimalist and reduced art – from the 1950s to the present day – and, on the other, hand, Pop Art, Conceptual art and pieces reflecting critical attitudes to art institutions. Our first exhibition on this theme presents a cross-section of artworks; it begins with Josef Albers’ early years in America and the work of his students, and goes on to include the Los Angeles ‘Abstract Classicists’ school and the ‘Washington Color School’ to Peter Halley and the artists scenes of the 1990s, concluding with recent contemporary tendencies.”
highways and byways. together again is on at Daimler Contemporary, Berlin until the 16th of March 2014.