Ricardo Alcaide, Bram Bogaert, Peter De Meyer, Tim Etchells, Matthew Feyld, Julius Heinemann, Esther Klas, Bettee Molnar, Richard Nonas,
Alberto Odériz, Wilfredo Prieto, Gabriel Rico, Frederik Van Simaey, Adrien Vescovi
Curator: Marie-Paule De Vil & Peter De Meyer
Opening: Sunday 26/01
Geukens & De Vil, KNOKKE
Exhibition > 10/03/19
© We Document Art, 2018
The idea of ‘(Almost) Nothingness’ has been part of the Western philosophical tradition for many decades. It has found its way through the minds of great thinkers such as Jean-Paul Sartre (penning down the words le néant hante l'être in l’être et le néant) or Friedrich Nietzsche who was exploring Nihilism and its implications for civilization.
However, where Nihilism suggests the denial or lack of belief towards all meaning, this exhibition – on the contrary – aims to reveal the valuable effect of minimalistic interventions and shows how strong the presence is of that what is left behind. During the course of recent art history, the idea of ‘Nothingness’ or ‘Almost Nothingness’ can be traced back to Dadaïst anti-art or the later Minimalism, taking on extreme forms with artists such as Yves Klein presenting his The Void (1958, Iris Clert Gallery Paris), in which he showed nothing more than an empty cabinet in the gallery space.
Presque rien will shed light on the idea of (Almost) Nothingness in the art field today, reuniting artists from different generations, nationalities and disciplines. Where some artists take upon a more formal approach, others access the idea in a conceptual manner. The result is an exhibition that is not merely ‘minimalistic’ in the traditional art historical sense of the word, but one showing a wide and unexpected range of works, including pompous, loud pieces that go hand in hand with subtle ones, or silent meditative works next to humorous and playful ones.
Entering the exhibition in the Antwerp gallery, three monumental, artworks challenge one’s expectations of what constitutes ‘presque rien’. Both Alicja Kwade (°1979, PL) and Gabriel Rico (°1980, MX) masterfully re-contextualize familiar objects and existing materials. Kwade removes a mirror from its usual function, making a mockery of scientific laws, where Rico juxtaposes (geometric) neon lines and natural elements. His work is often complemented with taxidermy and ready-mades and explores the beauty of mathematics, the duality reason/emotion and the relation between man and nature. This cross-over between nature and culture returns in the floor piece of Esther Kläs (°1981, DE) – a brute concrete casting of a ledge situated at her parent’s garden, creating ‘something’ out of ‘nothing’.
I have overcome the lining of the colored sky… swim in the white free abyss, infinity is before you. This 100-year-old statement by Kazimir Malevitsj comes to mind when seeing the work of Wilfredo Prieto (°1978, CU), Jaromír Novotný (1974, CZ), Daniel Levine (°1959, US), Ted Stamm (°1944 - †1984, US), Matthew Feyld (°1985, CA) and Julius Heinemann (°1984, DE) placed together in one room. Using almost solely white, they each in their own way, show how one is able to present the inherent complexity of an idea by showing almost nothing. At the same time, it is fascinating how intrinsically different each work is. Ranging from Levine’s monkish work of painting layer on to layer over the course of two years, to Prieto’s Paper folded to the far right, inclined to the left, a simple origami and word game, reflecting upon politics.
Looking up, a black yarn is stretched across the ceiling, contrasting with the baroque decorations of the gallery space. This small intervention by Ištvan Išt Huzjan (°1981, SI) produces a large effect, cutting across the white space, framing it and connecting the works present. An echoing noise disrupts the serenity of the room.
Using merely the sound of his own uncontrolled sneeze and zero form, Peter De Meyer (°1981, BE) pushes the idea of formal nothingness to its limits. Ode de Kort (°1992, BE) from her side decided to challenge the visitor to search for her work. For her, subtle presence equals almost absence.
Moving on to the central space of the gallery, a dialogue takes place between Post-Minimalistic artists Bernd Lohaus (1940, DE - †2010, BE) and Richard Nonas (°1936, US) and their younger counterparts Ricardo Alcaide (°1967, VE) and Matthew Feyld. During his career as an anthropologist Nonas observed the Papago (Mexico) who treated the
undifferentiated space of the desert like a series of rooms, based on small objects dotting the terrain. The idea that not architecture but material objects have the ability to affect spatial experiences inspired the artist to create sculptural objects that transform their surrounding space. His wall- and floor piece formally interact with the geometrical ‘tape drawing’ of German/Belgian artist Bernd Lohaus and the squared wall-sculpture by Alcaide, who, inspired by Latin-American Modernist architecture, constructs objects by using everyday materials to reflect on the social implications of urban planning and ghettoization.
The small tondo of Matthew Feyld forms a subtle link between this room and the adjacent one, where Dan Van Severen (°1927 - †2009, BE) and Carl Andre (°1935, US) represent Minimalism in the art historical sense of the word. Feyld builds upon the (Post) Minimalistic concept of sculpture and its relation with space. He internalizes this idea by an ongoing exploration of the dot and the field containing it. Where he previously painted punctuated squared canvasses, he evolved in blowing up the dot, which results in a series of small tondos marked by a dense coloristic complexity with edges that almost seem to vibrate with light.
The two other artists represented in this room – Johannes Wald (°1980, DE) and Peter De Meyer – relate to the concept of ‘presque rien’ in a more conceptual manner. By showing a bronze corner casting of tubes (Wald) and sandpaper framed by the wood it is used on (De Meyer), they reflect upon the importance of the artistic process preceding an actual artwork, making something that is initially invisible, visible.
To conclude, the space of the office forms an intimate setting for a series of small paintings by Belgian artist Marthe Wéry (°1930 - †2005). Her work is marked by a non-rigid repetition, visible in the subtle dégradé, going from right to left. The use of a slightly inexact repetitive form returns in the painting of Luke Diiorio (°1983, US) on the opposite wall, which is constructed of canvas and linen folded in a linear pattern.
The second part of the exhibition takes place in Knokke where the flashing words KEEP IT SIMPLE by Tim Etchells (°1962, UK) form the onset of what is shown inside. As such, the first room is defined by a rather subtle selection of works by Bram Bogart (°1921 NL - †2012, BE), Esther Kläs, Wilfredo Prieto, Matthew Feyld and Richard Nonas. However, installed in a simple framework, the pieces interact by their returning circular shape, creating a strong formal discourse that determines the whole space.
Walking towards the back, one passes a fragmented sandy horizon by Frederik Van Simaey (°1979, BE) to end in a room determined by the notion of time, nature and decay. Adrien Vescovi (°1981, FR) creates paintings by exposing fabrics to outdoor conditions (in this case, he bathed them in a pond on the estate of Jean Tinguely and Niki De Saint Phalle in Milly-la-Forêt), causing the passing of time and nature to actually create the work. Natural elements such as stones, rocks, branches and taxidermy also form the foundation in the sculptural works of Gabriel Rico, Bettee Molnar (°1987, HU) and Alberto Odériz (°1983, ES), constructing visual arrangements by a play of juxtaposition and gravity.
‘presque rien’ is a nominative that contains many aspects. Instead of showing merely the well expected minimalistic pieces, deprived from meaning and expression – this exhibition shows a string of artists working around the concept of ‘presque rien’, hence, merely nothing. Using a formal or conceptual approach, each of them shows the power of that what is not shown, or how minimal interventions are able to produce large effects. In this sense their work transcends ‘Nothingness’, proving to the viewer that nothing, can in fact, be everything.