Revisiting the idea of creating art along a certain methodology or based on specific conceptual and procedural guidelines is the story of „Situation 71“ – a selection of works of Roman Opalka, Imi Knoebel, Yayoi Kusama, Robert Barry and Jan J. Schoonhoven.
Among these represented artists Opalka and Barry may be those who show the most stringent approach in that manner: Opalka himself defined the task of to paint numbers beginning in 1965 and then progressing sequentially from one canvas to the next for the duration of his life. He meticulously mapped out the terms of his intention painting small numbers in white pigment using a number “0” brush, creating rhythmical horizontal striations against a black background. Each canvas, or Detail, as he called it, would begin in the upper left corner and gradually move to the lower right. Each application of white paint would continue until the brush became dry whereupon he would dab the brush and continue on as before.
This process would occur slowly over time. His painterly method was to embed the trace of these white numbers against the black surface, to make them appear tangible. Opalka further decided that each canvas would be vertical, measuring 195 by 35 centimeters.
From the day his project began until his death in the south of France in 2011, Opalka combined clear conceptual thinking with painterly materials. His search for infinity through painting became a form of phenomenology reflecting his attention to a paradoxically complex, reductive manner of painting while focusing on the infinite possibilities latent within his project.
In a similarly reductive manner Robert Barry is confronting concept and methodology: being a member of the first generation of conceptual artists he was instrumental in fundamentally changing art practice and theory by championing the meaning of language, concept, viewer and materiality for the structure, presentation and production of a work of art against its merely material and visual constitution.
Robert Barry’s works of the late 1960s and 1970s constituted a major contribution to this line of thinking. The presence of a linguistic component and the attention to the context in which the work is conceived, have been constant in his entire oeuvre since then. Language has played an increasingly prominent part in the artist’s work by treating words as a visual medium in their own right. The inclusion of single words is a process of free association in which an ‚image‘ inevitably forms inside the viewer’s head, like an extension of the physical piece of art. The compositions on canvas, in monocrome pastel colours, appear to make this process visual, as words fade and overlap.
Yayoi Kusama’s s works fall within a broader range of mediums, from drawing, painting, and photography to installation and performance art. Her works in the exhibition refer to aspects of defined repeatable patterns, sequencies and rigidly constructed elements – as represented by the obsessivley used polka dot scheme that has become a signature element of large parts of her oeuvre especially with the subject of the yellow pumpkin. „Situation 71“ also includes works of a friend of Kusama: Jan J. Schoonhoven, presenting subltle works on paper that correspond perfectly with the overall theme of the show.
Images: //1 Roman Opalka //2 Installation view // 3 Jan J. Schoonhoven