THE SPACE OF WORDS
From February 19 to May 25, 2009
Artists: Manon de Boer, Marcel Broodthaers, Aurélien Froment, Ryan Gander, Raymond Hains, Harald Klingelhöller, Dominique Petitgand, Edward Ruscha, Frances Stark, Josef Strau, Tris Vonna-Michell.
Curator: Christophe Gallois
“Words have temperatures to me. When they reach a certain point and become hot words, then they appeal to me… Sometimes I have a dream that if a word gets too hot and too appealing, it will boil apart, and I won’t be able to read or think of it. Usually, I catch them before they get too hot.” The point of evanescence of words that Edward Ruscha describes in this quote might illustrate how some contemporary artists relate to language: the development of slippages between language and image, between language and space, based, not on equivalence, but on dynamics of heterogeneity, often resulting in their mutual erasure. The exhibition The Space of Words explores this zone of heterogeneity between language and space and is articulated around two directions: the spatialisation of language and the evanescence of meaning.
One of the sources of inspiration for this project is a lecture given by French philosopher Jacques Rancière, whose title we borrow for this exhibition. Rancière’s L’Espace des mots is based on Marcel Broodthaers’s appropriation of the Mallarmé book Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hazard – substituting the words, which were deliberately arranged across the page, with black bands – in order to approach the exchange surface of the page as a “space of confrontation”, based on a “practice of word and image that emphasises the distance between them”. Focusing on the work of eleven artists from different generations, the exhibition The Space of Words explores a series of gestures activating different kinds of gaps between language and space, including the erasure, the alteration, the lose of memory, the explosion of meaning and the transposition from the space of the page to the space of the exhibition. A common feature of these gestures is the central role played by the notion of reading and by the processes of interpretation, appropriation and montage that it involves. The disappearance of meaning, the silences and blanks that characterise some of the works in the exhibition function thus, to quote Ruscha talking about a number of his paintings that feature erased words, as “spaces for thought”.
Musèe d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, v3.0
THE SPACE OF WORDS
March 5 – April 25, 2008
Ian Davis’s newest works form an absurdist theater in which little mysteries are enacted by large groups of men against the backdrops of anonymous institutions and forbidding landscapes. Since his first one-person exhibition at the gallery two years ago, Davis’s paintings have become increasingly complex and autobiographical. The minimalist geometry of his earlier work, now more intricate and entangled, supports darker narratives. Permeated with angst and anticipation, they reveal a critical imagination, contemplating the complexities of his own life, as well as the world around him.
Davis continues to structure and pattern his paintings with formations of archetypal male figures: black-suited businessmen, soldiers in period costumes, scientists wearing white lab coats. Their clone-like homogeneity and regimented geometry evoke Orwellian images of totalitarian regimes and the dystopia of Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil. Its famous opening subtitle, “Somewhere in the twentieth century," could begin to describe many of Davis’s works: Somewhere in the twentieth century men are gathering . . . waiting and watching.
The intrigue in Ian Davis’s narratives is also achieved through the use of anachronistic juxtapositions. In Estimate (2007), typical 1950s “organization men” confront a grid of primitive machines in a nineteenth-century factory setting. In Excavation (2008), men outfitted in helmets and lab coats observe as an immense wooden ship is extracted from the earth by a large flourescent orange crane. In another painting, a massive stone quarry is inspected by hundreds of men wearing midnight blue uniforms who stand by in groups or climb on ladders alongside electrical cords that are also painted fluorescent orange. The artist depicts the action in both paintings as graphically illuminated by clinical white lights from flood lamps or headlamps. Davis acknowledges that the birth of his first child in January of last year has had a profound effect on his art. The crane, ladders, and wires might then be understood as symbols of parturition, and the paintings, although partly inspired by photographs of actual occurrences, as metaphors for birth and rebirth. In Vigil (2009), hundreds of men are gathered around a fountain in a circular formation. The fountain is inside a vast, historical-looking building that seems wrong in every aspect: it has no furniture, a huge red-brick wall facing the viewer features a federal-style colonnade, but appears to have no function; there are no visible doors, and light is coming in from a series of tall windows on opposite sides of the room. The dark vaulted ceiling is in striking contrast to the red bunting that is hung up along the balustrades and around the fountain, which spurts no water – like a fountain of youth that has dried-up or, perhaps, is about to turned back on.
Ian Davis: Strange Geometry opens in two parts. Eight paintings, created during the past two years, will be on view at the gallery beginning March 5th. Davis’s newest paintings, completed this year, are initially shown in a solo presentation at VOLTA NY 2009 (March 5th to March 8th) and thereafter at the gallery.
Leslie Tonkonow Artworks Projects