In April 2019, Fondation CAB invites the emblematic and iconoclastic Swiss artist John Armleder (b. 1948 in Geneve) to conceive a unique exhibition. Armleder brings together pioneers of the Swiss art scene since the sixties, adhering to the epitome of primary abstraction and graphic geometry that originated in Switzerland in the second half of the century, with international artists working in the wake of this tradition, appropriating this heritage in their own, free and eclectic manner.
Rather than presenting these art practices as mere schematic examples of exercising abstraction in painting, Armleder takes us on a swirling journey through perception-gobbling geometrical confusions; 2D and 3D distortions and immersive trompe l’oeil installations in which the surrounding architecture becomes doubled, fragmented or disembodied.
Following the German Bauhaus experiments, Swiss Geometric Abstraction became a major contribution to 20th century art, with its sober and rational aesthetics based on harmony and equilibrium and technical perfection, culminating into distinct “Swiss” formal aesthetics. This tradition resonates throughout the entire exhibition.
Alentour takes shape as a single immersive installation. Like a mosaic of paintings and other wall-based works in which the conversations between the artists are as important as their discrete contributions: their eccentricities delightfully celebrate the pleasures of collaboration and friendship. The works of John Armleder, Stéphane Kropf andJohn Tremblaybear witness to this (Kropf and Tremblay having collaborated several times with Armleder, a great supporter of their work, over the past years), They will take up the central exhibition hall at Fondation CAB.
Since the 1980s, Armleder has been researching abstraction and notions of modernism through methodologies such as appropriation and citation. His “Furniture Sculptures”, in which found objects are mixed with abstract geometric or monochrome painting, stand critical towards the notion of ‘style’, and ironically distance themselves from the academism of traditional abstraction.
John Tremblay (b. 1966, Massachusetts) works with silkscreen and flattened scrap metal to exhibit circular forms, deriving from the straight, hard angles and rectangles that generally adorn Geometric Abstraction. The abstract painting of Stéphane Kropf(b. 1979, Lausanne) however, attracts the attention of the observer by playing with optical vibrations. The colours that make up his work don’t reveal their maximum effect until spectators perceive from up close, surrendering themselves entirely to meditative observation.
This informal meeting of friends and resonating artistic practices is amplified into a significant research thanks to the inclusion of other invited artists in the second part of the exhibition. Somewhat ten other artists hailing from the same tradition of geometric abstraction adorn the walls in an arbitrary, though unique composition.
Like Christian Flocquet(b. 1961, Geneva), whose geometric forms, binary associative colours and diagonal compositions make up monumental canvasses. Or Domenico Battista(b. 1946, Triggiano) who started his practic in Venezuela in the seventies, interpreting Op Art by infusing his paintings with vibrations, rhythm and dynamic energy flows that distort the gaze. Also Philippe Decrauzat (b. 1975, Lausanne) is fascinated by optical forms and researches their capacity. He infuses influences deriving from Op Art to manipulate the relationships between his works; the spaces in which they are situated; as well as the movement and perception of the spectator.
Sylvie Fleury(b. 1961, Geneva) appropriates ready-made desired consumer goods to reflect on the obsessive trail of seduction, temporary satisfaction, and resurgent desires. Provokingly, the tagline “Yes To All’ regularly surfaces in her body of work, which further deploys a slick and attractive visual language to seduce her – by consumerism conditioned – spectators. Echoing this preoccupation, Blair Thurman(b. 1961, New Orleans) issues standardised and simple forms from quotidian life to bridge the notion of optical perception with a reflection on how media is saturating our visual culture. He explores the correlation between representation and abstraction, borrowing from Pop Art and Minimalism and associating them with contemporary elements of entertainment and pop culture. Mai-Thu Perret(b. 1976, Geneva) equally draws on what thrives our contemporary capitalist society, by questioning the position of ritualistic practices within, hinting at the notion of utopia. She incorporates feminist literary references, and looks at Modernism, Arts and Crafts as well as Eastern cultures to construct her visual art practice, which consists of performance, sculpture, installation and applied arts.
In Alentour, John Armleder identifies and unravels many of the major threads that make up our contemporary aesthetic discourse. As a producer of performances, paintings, sculptures, installations and works that radically defy these classifications, he is constantly disrupting and questioning expectations on what art is and how it functions in society. Going through each of his projects, one conveys an honest respect for the energizing role of coincidence and chance in art, as it tends to do in life.
Opening reception: Tuesday April 23, 6 – 9PM
Exhibition dates: 24 April – 22 June 2019
Wednesday – Saturday: 12 – 6PM
Extended opening hours during Art Brussels 24 – 28 April
Wednesday – Saturday: 10AM – 6PM