John Armleder in “When Now is Minimal…” at Museion, Bolzano

22 November 201312 October 2014

When Now is Minimal: The Unknown Side of the Sammlung Goetz

The Sammlung Goetz is viewed as one of the most important collections of contemporary art worldwide. The exhibition Now is Minimal. The Unknown Side of the Sammlung Goetz presents a selection of more than one hundred works by 27 artists, from paintings to works on paper to photography and installations, from this prestigious collection. Most of the works on show are being presented to the public for the very first time. The exhibition sets out to examine contemporary references to minimalism and highlights how different generations of artists have tackled this theme, revisiting and developing the aesthetic, formal and conceptual elements of Minimal Art.

With its extremely simple, often geometric forms, and rejection of all historic or symbolic references, Minimalism did not set out to evoke anything, except maybe itself: what you see is what you see. These principles of the historic movement are embraced by the contemporary artists in the show, with works that highlight their nonchalant, free-spirited and often ironic approach to the current, effectively opening the minimalist lexicon to social, historic and at times biographical dimensions. The rich variety of media and works in the show also reveals the highly topical nature of this artistic arena, which goes beyond limits of genre and generation.

The artist Gerwald Rockenschaub plays a special role: as well as presenting a number of paintings and objects in the exhibition he also designed the colour layout of the show. The exhibition occupies the second and third floors of Museion – a pop of pink leads the way in and immediately conveys the importance of colour in the show. Echoing historic minimalism, Rockenschaub uses a lexicon of basic geometric shapes, but he combines these with the sensuality of colour. Visitors encounter a reassuring beige or grey wall followed by a vibrant expanse of acid green or even lilac. The colours chosen by Rockenschaub interface with the rich nuances of the works themselves, giving rise to an exhibition of great visual impact and immediacy. The layout does not follow a strict chronological order, leaving visitors free to explore the atmospheric works of art on show, like the trees of light in Martin Boyce’s installation “We are resistant, we dry out in the sun …” that the artist combines with deck chairs to create an outlandish, artificial beach setting. In this work light and space, key themes of Minimal art, open up to the imagination, emotions and dreams. Shifts of meaning, and sequences of associations and memories also characterise Boyce’s piece  “When now is Night”, which inspired the title of the exhibition. Two different walls on the third floor of Museion host wallpapers by the artist inspired by a sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s film “North by North-West” that has been reduced to a geometric motif: while in the film the façade of the building reflects the city traffic, in Boyce’s piece the grid comes to symbolise our increasingly rational, geometric world.

Architectural references also underpin the sparkling lines of the large paintings by Sarah Morris, “Federal Triangle ” and “World Bank”, 2001. And if a sequence of film can become a geometric form, the bodywork of a Los Angeles police car can become a drum kit, exactly what Michael Sailstorfer does in “Drumkit” (2005). In this work the register of minimalist shapes – circle and cylinder – is doubly subverted by of the provenance of the material and its setting – what is a drum kit doing in a museum? The large knitting paintings by Rosemarie Trockel – to whom Museion dedicated a solo show in January – also recall the seriality and monochrome of Minimal art, enriched however with new levels of meaning and symbolic allusions that elicit reflections on the role of women in art history and society. The exhibition is graced by the warm red tones of her work “Old Friend”, 2006, a knitting painting almost three metres square. Trockel also features with a video work, “Parade”, 1993, projected onto the museum’s media façade – the first time it has been presented on a large format surface.

Mixing different media and minimalist forms: this is what Wolfgang Tillmans does in the series  “paper drops”. Photographic papers in a vast spectrum of colours are used to make minimalist sculptures that the artist captures in large formats with extreme precision. The historic version of Minimalism rejected all external references, including to social questions, but this is not the case with “Colored” by Ai Weiwei. While this series of Ming vases uses the chromatic repertoire of Minimalism, it evokes the fragility of a certain social system. Behind the compositional perfection of the painting “CUSeeMe” by Peter Halley there also lies a critique of modern structures of communication, that the artist associates with the idea of a prison. In contrast to the historic current of minimalism Halley proves that paintings based on abstract geometrical shapes need not be without a message or social critique. The experience of sight, and therefore our perception of space, is the focus of Daniel Buren, the first contemporary artist to describe his work as “site specific”, namely connected to a specific place and time. His work in the exhibition, “Three Light Boxes For One Wall, 1989, is an atmospheric light installation that changes according to the venue that hosts it. The show also features a section devoted to works on paper by artists like Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo and Peter Roehr, hosted in the study collection area of Museion on the second floor. In the same area, Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work “Untitled”, 1992, comprising a series of identical red, offset-printed posters, invites visitors to help themselves to a sheet, thus becoming an active part of the artistic concept.

Featured artists
Ai Weiwei, John Armleder, Martin Boyce, Daniel Buren, Alan Charlton, Ron Cooper, Fischli & Weiss, Peter Fischli, David Weiss, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Wade Guyton, Peter Halley, Imi Knoebel, Sarah Morris, Blinky Palermo, Anselm Reyle, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Peter Roehr, Ulrich Rückriem, Reiner Ruthenbeck, Michael Sailstorfer, Karin Sander, Fred Sandback, Haim Steinbach, Katja Strunz, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rosemarie Trockel and Andrea Zittel.

Catalogue (ita/dt/eng) with texts by Ingvild Goetz, Karsten Löckemann, Angelika Nollert and Letizia Ragaglia, published by Hatje Cantz.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Museion,  the Neues Museum. Staatliches Museum für Kunst und Design in Nürnberg and the Sammlung Goetz.

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