Perret's The Adding Machine: the exhibition, which incorporates sculpture, installation, painting, video and performance as well as text-based work, is the most comprehensive presentation to date of this internationally renowned artist. Augustin Rebetez has chosen a gallery on the lower floor of the Aargauer Kunsthaus for his presentation within the CARAVAN series of exhibitions of young art, for which he is combining large and small-scale photographs, video pieces and drawings into a visually stunning wall installation. A major retrospective of the work of Christian Rothacher introduces an Aarau artist who was among the protagonists of the young Swiss avant-garde.
CARAVAN 1/2011: Augustin Rebetez
curated by Katrin Weilenmann, Assistant Curator
Series of Exhibitions of Young Art
Jura-based artist Augustin Rebetez is combining photographs, video pieces and drawings into a visually stunning wall installation at the Aargauer Kunsthaus. This presentation continues the series of exhibitions of young art at the Aargauer Kunsthaus.
Augustin Rebetez has chosen a gallery on the lower floor of the Aargauer Kunsthaus for his presentation within the CARAVAN series of exhibitions of young art, for which he is combining large and small-scale photographs, video pieces and drawings into a visually stunning wall installation.
For his CARAVAN exhibition, Rebetez has assembled photographs from existing series, such as "Gueules de bois" (2009), "Blue Devils" (2010), "Tout ce qui a le visage de la colère et n'élève pas la voix" (2010) and "After Dark" (2011). In "Gueules de bois" (Hangovers) he captured the partying habits of his peers in the Canton of Jura. As a participating observer he partied along, while at the same time recording the dark side of the boozy partying scene. The results are straightforward and intimate images showing the loneliness and apathy, as well as the latent aggressiveness, that frequently hide under the guise of exuberance. In the works from "Tout ce qui a le visage de la colère et n'élève pas la voix", too, the artist examines the dreams and fears of his generation, capturing feelings of rage and impotence in expressive images.
In the isolation of the Norwegian island of Senja, Augustin Rebetez has recently created a series titled "After Dark" (2011), for which he portrayed individual island dwellers as well as the typical Norwegian timber cottages. The artist tends to contrast his documentary photographs with staged photographs. At this snow-covered location in the far North – at the end of the world, as it were – the artist created a mystic universe. In his most recent photographic works, as well as in his stop-motion videos, everyday objects are transformed into seemingly animated things that come alive in the dark Norwegian night. These reticently humorous pictures invariably – and typically for Rebetez' work – resonate with hints of melancholy and solitude.
Completing the presentation of Rebetez' photographs and videos at the Aargauer Kunsthaus is a selection of his drawings, which he considers to be complementary to his photographic and video work, since the pencil allows him to commit to paper what he cannot capture by means of the camera.
Augustin Rebetez (b. 1986) was born and raised in the Canton of Jura and today lives and works in Mervelier (JU). He studied photography at the Centre d'enseignement professionnel de Vevey (CEPV), graduating in 2009. Selected exhibitions to date: "Mois de la Photographie", Montréal (2011); "Jour de Fête", The Private Space, Barcelona (2011); "After Dark", La Filature, Mulhouse (2011); "Regeneration2", Caochangdi PhotoSpring Festival, Beijing, Galerie Azzedine Alaia, Paris and Aperture Foundation, New York (2011); "Schlark", space Kurant, Tromsø (2010); "Hyper-Fatigue", Artsenal, Delémont (2010); "Lust und Laster", Kunstmuseum Bern & Zentrum Paul Klee, Berne (2010/11); "Ici et Maintenant", Espace Noir, Sanit-Imier (2010); "Gueules de bois", Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne and Photoforum PasquArt, Biel (2009); "Weihnachtsausstellung", Photoforum, Biel (2009); "Creator/Curator", HungryMan Gallery, Chicago (2009); "Future", Le Pantographe, Moutier (2009); La Fibre, Local d'Art Contemporain, Vevey (2008).
CARAVAN - Launched in 2008, this series of exhibitions of young art offers visitors to the Aargauer Kunsthaus a chance to encounter young Swiss artists and to discover novel and as yet unestablished artistic practices. Its name, CARAVAN, is programmatic; several times a year, artists are given different galleries of the Aargauer Kunsthaus to work with. These "mobile interventions" engage in a discourse with the building, the collection and the programme of the Kunsthaus, opening up new ways of seeing for the visiting public. In this way, rather than creating a self-contained project space for recent art, the exhibition series promotes a link-up of recent artistic practices with everything else the Kunsthaus has to offer. Each time, CARAVAN will thus stop at varying and perhaps surprising locations in the Aargauer Kunsthaus.
Christian Rothacher - Retrospective
curated by Stephan Kunz
This first major retrospective of the work of Christian Rothacher (1944-2007) introduces an Aarau artist who, around 1970, was among the protagonists of the young Swiss avant-garde, yet early on, out of profound scepticism, withdrew from the art scene and henceforth quietly created an eminently poetic œuvre. The exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus renders Christian Rothacher's œuvre accessible through central thematic strands and image clusters, covering his entire career from the early pop paintings to his late inlaid work and watercolours.
In 1967, Christian Rothacher and his artist friends Heiner Kielholz, Max Matter, Markus Müller and Hugo Suter moved into a former factory at Ziegelrain in Aarau. In the freedom of this loose studio collective that would exist until 1975 the artists experimented with various contemporary art tendencies such as pop art, anti-form and conceptual art. Following an intense brush with British pop art, Christian Rothacher made his first attempts at leaving the two-dimensional picture, working with deliberately "poor" materials such as wood, hide, leather and gauze. Blending conceptual considerations with existential experiences, these attempts led to highly distinctive and quite playful und humorous imagery starting as early as 1970. Growing out of an interplay between drawing and object art, subsequent groups of works dealt with artistic issues and, in the process, touched on aspects of everyday life or, vice versa, reflected the artist's own environment, while implying a concern with art-related matters.
Their openness to and reflection on fundamental issues and key developments of contemporary art soon earned the Ziegelrain artists considerable recognition: in 1971 Christian Rothacher, together with Heiner Kielholz and Alfred Hofkunst, represented Switzerland at the 11th São Paolo Biennial. Yet Rothacher professed to be increasingly troubled by the art scene and secluded himself more and more. Away from public view he continued to develop his distinct imagery in precise groups of works, proving himself a technically prodigious artist whose skills as a trained craftsman are evident in each of his works, without eclipsing thematic concerns.
In 2006 the Aargauer Kunsthaus showed a selection of Christian Rothacher's early works within the exhibition titled "Ziegelrain '67-'75". Now it acknowledges his career by mounting a comprehensive retrospective: based on central thematic strands and clusters of imagery, which result in numerous works being shown together for the first time, the exhibition covers the entire range of his career from the early reverse glass pop paintings to the late marquetry images of everyday life. Along with process and material-based objects from the Ziegelrain years, nature is a central theme, as is art itself. In his critical reflections on the conditions and possibilities of artistic creativity and, in particular, painting the palette, as the painter's tool, becomes a leitmotif. Yet another focus are plain everyday situations and objects such as envelopes that have been torn open, piled glass panes, ruffled beds and clothes, which the artist renders in close-up with utmost precision, pursuing these subjects in serially conceived watercolours and inlaid work. Chess pieces, dice and domino tiles are likewise part of everyday life, yet in the artist's hands they become part of humorous and surreal-seeming pictorial arrangements.
Counterbalancing the often small-scale works, the exhibition also includes Rothacher's extensive installation "Abendmahl", which re-enacts Leonardo da Vinci's "Abendmahl" using thirteen table lamps. This work is paradigmatic for Rothacher's artistic universe in that it includes complex and many-layered references to and comments on art, everyday life, pop culture, nature and politics, while time and again establishing links between private or everyday life and world politics.
Christian Rothacher (1944-2007, Aarau) did an apprenticeship with the Bally shoe company in Schönenwerd, before switching, in 1964, to the newly established F+F free art class at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Applied Arts) in Zurich. From 1967 until 1975 he was active in the Ziegelrain studio collective in Aarau. His work first attracted attention at the end of the 1960s and in the early 1970s he was awarded several grants. During that same period he spent several months in Afghanistan. In the 1980s he moved his residence and his studio to Brebbia in northern Italy, but returned to Aarau in 2002. Following a brief, but severe illness he died there in 2007.
Christian Rothacher has been the subject of important solo exhibitions at Galerie Stampa in Basel (in 1969 and 1972) and at the Kunstmuseum Olten (in 1992 and 2006). The Elisabeth Staffelbach, Silvia Steiner and Marlene Frei galleries regularly show his work. In addition to his participation in the 11th São Paolo Biennial (1971) his works have been included in group exhibitions such as "Farbe und Form" (Kunsthalle Bern, 1970), Die "Metamorphose des Dinges" (Kunsthalle Basel, 1972) and "Ziegelrain '67-'75" (Aargauer Kunsthaus, 2006).
In conjunction with the exhibition the first monograph on Christian Rothacher's work will be published: "Christian Rothacher – Uns bleiben die Feuerringe" by Scheidegger & Spiess Publishers. The catalogue includes essays by the editor, Stephan Kunz, and by Marie-Louise Lienhard and Mirjam Steiner/Corinna Marchand, as well as an extensive selection of letters by the artist and numerous illustrations.
Mai-Thu Perret - The Adding Machine
curated by Madeleine Schuppli, Director, Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau
In the spring of 2011 the Aargauer Kunsthaus in Aarau will mount a major solo exhibition of Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret. The exhibition, which incorporates sculpture, installation, painting, video and performance as well as text-based work, is the most comprehensive presentation to date of this internationally renowned artist.
In recent years Mai-Thu Perret (b. 1976) has drawn considerable attention in Europe and the U.S. for her ambitious, multidisciplinary artistic work, which comprises sculpture, installation, painting, video, performance, and text-based pieces with a wide underlying frame of cultural and art historical references. The Geneva-based artist is particularly interested in 20th century avant-garde movements and Utopian concepts of life. The solo exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus titled "The Adding Machine" highlights the multifaceted approach of Mai-Thu Perret's artistic practice, presenting numerous works that were created specifically for this show, as well as some older works. The artist's wish that the individual works in the exhibition be perceived as connected rather than isolated is already indicated in the exhibition title, "The Adding Machine", a reference to the "cut-up" technique of American writer William S. Burroughs. Burroughs used to cut up the pages of his manuscripts and subsequently rearrange them at will according to the random principle. The result is an associative narrative structure similar to the one underlying Mai-Thu Perret's exhibition: their juxtaposition opens up new cross-references and meanings between the individual works.
The artist's new video installation titled "Space-Time Rhythm Modulation – The Most Difficult Love" (2010) takes on a pivotal role in the exhibition at the Aargauer Kunsthaus. In this many-layered work, which consists of an extensive sculptural element onto which three films are projected in turns, Mai-Thu Perret intertwines literary, historical and autobiographical references. Incorportated are fragments of the moving story of Polish avant-garde artist Katarzyna Kobro (1898-1951). To Mai-Thu Perret, Kobro epitomises a Brechtian Mother Courage of sorts, a modern artist who in spite of all political and private difficulties kept pursuing her work. Perret links this homage to Kobro to the science fiction novel "We" (1920) by the Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin. She sees this new video installation as a historical prequel to her narrative titled "The Crystal Frontier", a fictitious story about a commune of women who live in the desert of New Mexico in order to escape capitalist and patriarchal social structures. A Utopia in a constant state of flux, "The Crystal Frontier" serves as a defining point of departure for Mai-Thu Perret's artistic work. The artist presents this fiction in the form of various kinds of text fragments. Mai- Thu Perret has assembled the most extensive collection of these texts to date in her 2008 artist's book "Land of Crystal".
Other important works are large-scale installations such as "A Uniform Sampler" (2003) and "Planetary Harmony" (2006). The latter is an accessible sculpture in the form of a supersized tea pot that doubles as a picture gallery. Familiar proportions no longer apply. Presented for the first time is the sculpture "The Adding Machine" (2011), a copy of an archaeological find from Teotihuacan (Mexico). Mai-Thu Perret sees this replica as bearing the trace of a lost civilisation. By means of its transformation into polyurethane foam she alters its reading and raises the question of its past – what function did this object have back then? – and of its relationship to today. In the exhibition these large-scale installations are juxtaposed with a new series of ceramic reliefs as well as small-scale acrylic paintings, objects, text-based works and carpet pieces.
Working with fragments of and references to historical material is characteristic of Mai-Thu Perret's creative process. Inspired by the formal vocabulary of Piet Mondrian, she is creating four wall-sized, abstract neon pieces exclusively for the Aargauer Kunsthaus: formally referencing one another, they can be fully appreciated in their uniqueness in the museum's smaller cabinet rooms. In addition, the artist is creating wallpaper for Aarau. Its design is inspired by the superb works of concrete art in the collection of the Aargauer Kunsthaus. As an envelope for intimacy, the wallpaper, in fact, creates a rather irritating domestic atmosphere in the museum gallery. An additional highlight in the exhibition is Mai-Thu Perret's new film titled "In Darkness Let Me Dwell", for which Perret was awarded the IDHEAP Lausanne Grand Prix of the Jury in September of 2010. In Aarau this work is accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Ikue Mori, a Japanese avant-garde musician. In the video the protagonist undertakes a pilgrimage around England. She emerges from a subway station in London, walks through urban neighbourhoods all the way to the coast in Kent, where she steps into the water and vanishes. The female figure, to Mai-Thu Perret, epitomizes melancholy and is representative of poets and artists. Reminiscent of a surrealist reverie, the video includes distinctive references to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí.
The exhibition "The Adding Machine" is organized jointly with the MAGASIN – Centre National d'Art Contemporain in Grenoble, France, where a modified version of the exhibition will be on view from 15 October, 2011 until 7 January, 2012.
Mai-Thu Perret (b. in Geneva in 1976) lives and works in Geneva. After studying literature at the University of Cambridge she completed the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. She has had a number of solo exhibitions, among them at the following museums: University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (2010-11); Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2009); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2008-09); Kunsthalle St. Gallen (2008); and Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht (2007). She also participated in numerous group shows at home and abroad, for instance, at Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2010); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2010); Malmö Konsthall, Malmö (2010); Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius (2009); Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich (2008); Centre Culturel Suisse, Paris (2007); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2007); MAMCO, Geneva (2007); Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (2007); P.S.1, New York (2006); Zendai Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (2006). In addition, the artist recently received the Zurich Art Prize as well as the Manor Art Award Geneva.
The Aargauer Kunsthaus would like to thank the Neue Aargauer Bank AG, Pro Helvetia, the Zuger Kulturstiftung Landis & Gyr and the Alfred Richterich Stiftung for their generous support.
Published in conjunction with the exhibition, the catalogue "Mai-Thu Peret – The Adding Machine" includes essays by Madeleine Schuppli and Diedrich Diederichsen, as well as an exclusive vinyl record produced by Mai-Thu Perret in collaboration with singer Tamara Barnett-Herrin. Edited by Madeleine Schuppli and the Aargauer Kunsthaus, 100 pp. ISBN: 978-3905004-35-9. Available as of 12 June 2011 at the Aargauer Kunsthaus.
Image: Mai-Thu Perret: Untitled, 2010
Acryl auf Holz, 60.6 x 45 cm
Courtesy die Künstlerin und Timothy Taylor Gallery, London
Opening: 13 May 2011 - 18:00
Aargauerplatz 5001 Aarau
Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 10 am - 5 pm, Thur 10 am - 8 pm, closed on Mondays