El Anatsui – Proximately

El Anatsui – Proximately

10.10.2017 - 13.01.2018
El Anatsui – Proximately
October 10, 2017 – January 13, 2018
Opening October 10, 2017

Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to announce El Anatsui’s exhibition titled, Proximately, consisting of seven new works. Proximately continues the artist’s exploration into the diverse language of his chosen materials. Anatsui uses aluminium bottle caps and the labels of liquor bottles that are stitched together with copper wire to create sculptural installations often mounted to the wall like a three-dimensional draped tapestry. The transformation and reuse of simple, everyday materials draws attention to contemporary ideas about waste, consumption, and recycling, but the artist prefers to imply and suggest meaning rather than enforce it.

El Anatsui (°1944) was born in Ghana and now lives and works between Ghana and Nigeria. Growing up in the 1960s, Anatsui experienced a period of time typified by a profound search for social and personal identity. This search has become a central theme in his work. He investigates the erosion of tradition, as well as its survival and transmission into the future. He has addressed a vast range of social, political and historical concerns, and embraced an equally diverse vocabulary of media and process.

"Art grows out of each particular situation and I believe that artists are better off working with whatever their environment throws up…"

The exhibition includes several large-scale sculptures. Anatsui has focused on large tapestry-like metal sculptures made up out of thousands of colourful liquor caps. When local distilleries in Nigeria recycle each other's bottles, the screw caps associated with each brand are discarded in the process. By collecting these materials, and laboriously sewing them together with copper wire, Anatsui's transformative process aims to "subvert the stereotype of metal as a stiff, rigid medium and rather showing it as a soft, pliable, almost sensuous material capable of attaining immense dimensions and being adapted to specific spaces" (Anatsui 2005).

He reworks and rearranges materials and transforms them into something new without them losing their own history. These reconfigured found objects break down the definition of conventional painting and sculpture. The repetitively hand-stitched bottle caps evoke the cultural tradition of handcraft and of a graphical system that is used to form patterns on African textile. The sculptures’ formal language is another key to understanding the aesthetic sensibilities of Anatsui’s work. Elements of colour and the three-dimensional qualities break down the definition of conventional painting and sculpture.

A large, fluid, colourful installation draped over the wall is visually overwhelming. Voluminous, undulated folds and luminous colours invite viewers to touch and walk around the work, viewing it from all angles. The form’s playfulness and the freedom to shape the works before and after installation are reflective of the openness and fluid aspects of Anatsui’s work. Additionally, the repetitively hand-stitched bottle caps evoke the cultural tradition of handcraft. Although the material comes from mass-produced products, there’s no industrial feeling to it. Hints of the touch and craft of human hands are embedded into the work, bringing a sense of emotion and contemplation.
Masatoshi Masanobu

Masatoshi Masanobu

15.11.2017 - 18.03.2018

Lucia Bru - Rien ne change de forme comme les nuages, si ce n'est les rochers

Lucia Bru - Rien ne change de forme comme les nuages, si ce n'est les rochers

25.11.2017 - 13.01.2018
The taste of stones

Nothing is more admirable than an artist’s obstinacy in working out possible variations of ‘things’ which, at first sight, seem utterly mundane. It is a process of parsing these elements, so as to illuminate their tiniest differences; it is a matter of grouping them, or setting them apart; it is a practice of following the objects’ potential right into the folds and creases of a piece of paper, onto the harshness of a stone, or into the transparency of a piece of crystal…. Why should our gazes only be sensitive to the spectacular efforts of some, and less concerned with the outline of a rock, or the shape-shifting of clouds? It is to this kind of attention that we are compelled by Lucia Bru’s work: it sharpens our vision and leads us into a universe of shapes and gestures. Its apparent simplicity is, above all, attained through an exacting process of distilling what is essential.
Here, all energy is dedicated to the ‘things’ themselves, to their particularities, each object being first imagined, and left to its own expansion, out of control, then kept for what it is. No mastery here wishes to intrude on the process of its evolution, if only a savoir-faire that confines itself to a sense of experimentation and a surrender to chance. Shapes that are simple and always asymmetrical, a diversity of materials chosen with an implacable logic, such as salt glaze, porcelain and crystal, clay, cement, paper, plaster and graphite, are the substances of an elementary geography of which the results, miniscule or voluminous, flow into the secret of the gestures and a need for imperfection.
Thus, a mineral world composes itself, in which figures of a recomposed ‘nature’ cohabit. It is a voyage into the thickness of things, of their weight, and their minutest qualities, where any attempt to name what we think we recognize would be as vain as trying to extract all of their meaning, or to distinguish their categories. It is to the domain of sculpture that these ‘things’ belong: placed on the ground or disposed on the walls, they keep sending us back to the same preoccupations: their common existence and their possible gravitation. 
But beyond the objects, these shapes so patiently established, that exist for their own sake, the energy is dedicated to their disposition, and the possible arrangements in the space in which they appear. Every element has to find its place, and every combination is painstakingly explored to compose the ephemeral landscape of an exhibition.
Like Japanese gardeners who ‘borrow the landscape’, Lucia Bru borrows the places in which she works, without constraining them or plying them to her arrangements. They are the supplementary, necessary elements of her passage. She uses them, for a given time, to unleash the unprecedented qualities of the expression of ‘things’ in which it simply remains for us to participate.

text by Joel Benzakin
translated by Kate Mayne

Le goût des pierres

Rien n’est  plus admirable que l’entêtement d’une artiste à travailler sans cesse  les possibles  variations de « choses » qui, à première vue, nous semblent si ordinaires, pour en souligner les moindres différences,  les unir ou  les distinguer, en explorer les potentiels jusqu’à tirer parti du froissement d’un papier,  des  aspérités d’un cailloux ou de la transparence d’un morceau de cristal…   Faut-il que nos regards ne soient plus sensibles qu’aux  efforts spectaculaires de certains pour que nous soyons si peu soucieux des contours d’un rocher ou des formes fugitives d’un nuage ? C’est à cette sorte d’attention que le travail de Lucia Bru nous oblige, qu’il affûte nos regards et nous entraîne dans un univers de gestes et de formes dont l’apparente simplicité est avant tout le résultat d’une exigence de l’essentiel. 
C’est aux « choses » elles-mêmes que toute l’énergie est ici consacrée, à leurs particularités, chaque objet étant d’abord pensé puis laissé à sa propre expansion, hors contrôle, gardé pour ce qu’il est. Nulle maîtrise ne veut ici interrompre le processus  de son évolution sinon un savoir faire se confiant  au goût de l’expérience et à l’abandon du hasard.  Formes simples et toujours asymétriques, diversité de matériaux aux logiques implacables, sable et grès, porcelaine et cristal, terre, ciment, papier, plâtre et graphite, sont les substances d’une géographie de  l’élémentaire dont les résultats, minuscules ou volumineux se coulent dans le secret des gestes et la nécessité de l’imperfection.
Ainsi se compose un monde minéral ou cohabitent les figures d’une  « nature » recomposée, un voyage dans l’épaisseur des choses, leur poids, leurs infimes qualités où tenter de nommer ce que nous croyons reconnaître serait aussi vain que d’essayer d’en extraire toutes les significations, ou d’en distinguer les catégories. C’est au domaine de la sculpture que ces « choses » appartiennent, placées au sol ou disposées aux murs, elles nous renvoient inlassablement aux mêmes préoccupations, à leur commune existence et leur possible gravitation.               
Mais au-delà des objets pour eux-mêmes, des formes patiemment établies c’est à leur disposition que l’énergie se consacre, aux possibles arrangements de ces ensembles dans l’espace de leur apparition. Chaque élément y doit trouver sa place, chaque combinaison y est minutieusement explorée pour composer le paysage éphémère d’une exposition.         Tels les jardiniers japonais « empruntant le paysage », Lucia Bru emprunte les lieux, sans les contraindre ou les plier à ses arrangements, sans les forcer à d’inutiles transformations, ils sont l’élément supplémentaire et nécessaire à son passage pour y transporter, un temps donné, les qualités inédites de l’expression des « choses » dont il ne nous reste finalement  qu’à prendre le parti.

Texte: Joel Benzakin
Saburo Murakami

Saburo Murakami

30.11.2017 - 07.04.2018
Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present a comprehensive solo exhibition by Saburo Murakami (1925-1996), Japanese painter and pioneer of performance art. The exhibition brings together a large selection of important paintings from the 1950s through the end of the 1960s., featuring works from the artist’s estate alongside generous loans from prominent private collections.

Eager to explore new approaches to art, Murakami formed Zero-kai (Zero Group) together with, among others, Kazuo Shiraga and Akira Kanayama in 1952. Murakami was also one of the best-known members of the Gutai Art Association, which he joined in 1955. The same year he became a Gutai member, he drew major attention because of his kami-yaburi (paper breakthrough) performances. In these events the artist, using his body’s momentum, broke through large sheets of paper that were stretched between a frame, tearing the screen-like objects while doing so. Sometimes he mounted many consecutive panels after each other like a tunnel, other times he slashed just one paper sheet at the time. He continued to do performances and happenings up until his death in 1996.

It was Murakami’s theoretical interest that lead him to these paper breakthroughs that are internationally renowned as pioneering examples of performance art. He searched to unify time and space, two concepts that are divided by rational thinking, but become joined together in the sphere of action. His interest in art theory is not surprising, since he held a doctorate in philosophy with a specialisation in aesthetics. Murakami encouraged viewers to rethink their assumptions about art, while questioning the conventions of the medium, authorship, art making, and art observing.

“There are things or events that I have before my eyes, and still do not perceive. Sometimes it happens to me that I cannot remember some places, although I had just seen them in a cinema film. If an object is placed in front of me I sometimes see it as it really is, and sometimes I do not actually see it, although I receive it optically. I believe that we do not look about us very precisely. But on the other hand it could happen that I stare at an object with such enormous intensity that afterwards it seems even to myself crazy and idiotic, and yet I see nothing in reality.”

Murakami was renowned for his paintings. Highly conceptual in his methods and presentation of art, he experimented with a variety of painting gestures inspired by children. Initially, Murakami applied several layers of paint in an almost excessive way. The playfulness of the creative act was one of the central premises for the artist, who welcomed elements of chance and inevitability in his work. Works that were created between 1955 and the mid-1960s stress the passage of time by retaining traces of violent actions and dynamic changes, sharing a commonality with the kami-yaburi performances. In the late 1950s, he experimented with relief-like works, attaching pieces of wood, thick plaster, or other materials to raise the surface. He also splashed paint across the canvas and employed dynamic brushstrokes.

Later in his career, his works merged further with conceptual, performance, and minimalist techniques. Brush strokes were arranged more separately and simply as opposed to of the former multi-layered approach. The artist also further explored his tendency to use strong and contrasting colours. Throughout his oeuvre, Murakami expressed a distance from the purely aesthetic, and strived for ways to constantly renew himself.

The gallery is open: Thurs. - Sat., 14:00 - 17:00, or by appointment.
Henro I

Henro I

30.11.2017 - 14.07.2018
Henro I
A first path through the collection of the Axel & May Vervoordt Foundation.
Opening 30 November - 6-9pm