Gallery Weekend: Martin Boyce and Stefan Bertalan


Martin Boyce:
In Praise of Shadows
27 April – 23 June 2012
Opening: 27 April, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery 1

Martin Boyce installation view

On occasion of Gallery Weekend, Johnen Galerie is proud to announce Martin Boyce’s first solo exhibition since winning the Turner Prize in 2011.
Boyce’s work can be likened to melancholic, visual poems that consist of a vocabulary derived from Modern design and architecture. Boyce constructs his work by using a complex, visual language of historical design objects that he puts in relation to the present. He focuses on the origins of these objects and explores how the political and esthetic background has transformed over time. Modernity has become the stage for highly ambivalent experiences, and Boyce’s works inquire to which degree its hopes and dreams had to be adjusted to reality as time went by. His work has been greatly shaped and influenced by the abstract concrete trees by the brothers Joel and Jan Martel, designed in 1925 for a Parisian garden. The trees symbolize nature’s submission to design. Boyce uses the trees’ underlying geometric shapes as forms of departure for creating such diverse objects as lettering, lamps, screens, masks, leaves, grilles, fences and furniture. These elements in turn form installations and environments where nature and architecture collapse and evoke a melancholic ambiance of decay and abandonment. Boyce often composes letter-shaped fragments of the concrete tree leaves that can be read as poetic text. It is his poetry that prevents Boyce’s art from ever being cold and detached in its exactitude. On the contrary, the multitude of variations and associations draws the viewer in and touches a deeper place.

Martin Boyce (b. 1967) lives and works in Glasgow where he attended the School of Art until 1990. Solo exhibitions of his work include Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh (1999), MMK Frankfurt (2002), Tramway Glasgow (2002), Adolf-Luther-Prize exhibition, Krefeld (2004), Centre d’Art Contemporain Geneva (2007), Scottish Pavilion of Biennale di Venezia (2009) and Turner Prize exhibition, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead (2011).

Stefan Bertalan
De Natura Rerum
27 April – 23 June 2012
Opening: 27 April, 6 – 9 pm
Gallery 2

Stefan Bertalan: Network, 1975, 49 x 34,5 cm – 19 x 13.5 in., coloured pencil on paper

“The general social state of poverty, complacency, degradation and disengagement, together with the material and the cultural decay is probably the most striking characteristic of the Romanian environment during the ’80s. […]
Stefan Bertalan, thanks to his previous idealist, rationalist and constructivist attemps, is the best illustration of the trauma generated by the fall out of love with the depressed and depressing reality endlessly, propagating itself through the local society and civilization, in the last years before Communism. Bertalan migrates from the abstract clean-cut structures and assembles designed to mirror and echo the utopian aspirations for a society built up on ’pure relationships’, a former dream of the rationalist avantgarde, to the most regressive and mind-blowing type of irrational art, regarded as the last port of call where he can take cover against compensatory self-delusion, escapist and illusory ideals, shared still by all those artists caught up with the idea of creating spiritualist or technical and constructivist utopias. […]
The moral approach of his perspective is blatant and very insightful. A far-fetched ethics of demoralisation and debunking, spans itself throughout the whole of this study. Surviving as a skeleton, as well as surviving as a potato, as a bean-stalk or a sunflower, is equivalent to existing within different relationships of dependency that unavoidably end up in disappearance.” (p. 189-193)

“He withdraws in a vegetal Eden, where he can be away from the authoritarian pressure of a violent power that threatens his existence all the time, as he, in turn, refuses to recognise its authority, and confronts it by opposing it with the paradise of the plants, a space where protest, delight, understanding and happiness find a meeting point.” (p. 212)

Stefan Bertalan (b. 1930) attended the Institute of Fine Arts “I. Andreescu” (Cluj, Romania) until 1962. Bertalan was co-founder of Group 111, the first community for experimental art in Romania.

De Natura Rerum is organized by Erwin Kessler and Victor Man.

Quoted from: Erwin Kessler (ed.): The Self-punishing One (…). The Art and Romania in the 80s and 90s. Romanian Cultural Institute, 2010.

Johnen Galerie
Marienstrasse 10
10117 Berlin
Tuesday – Saturday, 11 am – 6 pm


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