During Gallery Weekend Berlin Galerie Nordenhake presents its fifth solo exhibition of photographer Michael Schmidt (1945-2014). Schmidt’s works are characterised by the persistent quest of finding a new approach to reality by means of photography.
Since the mid 1990s his oeuvre includes works that the artist created by using images from his working archive. The process of re-contextualising his individual shots forms an integral part of Schmidt’s artistic practice. The interval between the shooting of the pictures and the revision enables a different perspective on the original subject. The artist also aims to reactivate the aesthetic potential of the archived material by employing different artistic criteria and creating new compilations of the works. This editorial process of not merely selecting but also re-arranging the photographs ultimately leads to a novel interpretation.
This process is employed in NATUR, a project that Schmidt completed shortly before his death in 2014. The exhibition of the delicate small-scale prints from negatives dating back to 1987-97 is preceded by the creation of a photo book, a practice at the core of Schmidt’s work. The choice of the title indicates that the artist goes beyond the mere depiction of a specific landscape and articulates an idea of nature in a distinctive pictorial language. Schmidt’s black and white images contain a wealth of silver tones and rich greys imbuing the images with an almost physical sense of gravity or lightness. The selection of the subjects, the employment of focus and blur and above all the implementation of light convey an existential understanding of nature and its significance for us.
Michael Schmidt was born in 1945 in Berlin, where he died in 2014. He is regarded as one of the seminal German post-war photographers. His works can be found in national and international collections and have been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions. A major retrospective of Michael Schmidt's work curated by Thomas Weski is planned for 2020 and will be shown in one of the museums of the Nationalgalerie Berlin.
In 1976, Michael Schmidt founded the Werkstatt für Fotografie at VHS Berlin-Kreuzberg, which became a major forum for international discussions on photography in (West) Berlin. In 1987 he exhibited WAFFENRUHE (CEASEFIRE) at Berlinische Galerie. In 1988 the Museum of Modern Art, New York presented the work in the exhibition „New Photography 4“. In 1996 EIN-HEIT was shown for the first time at MoMA, New York under its English title U-NI-TY. This was the first solo-exhibition of a German photographer at MoMA since decades. In the same year, EIN-HEIT was presented for the first time in Germany at Sprengel Museum Hanover. In 1995 a first survey exhibition of his work was on view at Museum Folkwang Essen, after the museum had shown exhibitions of Schmidt in 1981 and 1988. In 2010 Michael Schmidt presented his comprehensive survey exhibition “Grey as Colour. Photographs since 2009” at Haus der Kunst, Munich.
Michael Schmidt participated in the 55th Venice Biennial in 2013, and the Berlin Biennial in 2006 and 2010. LEBENSMITTEL (FOOD) was presented in solo exhibitions at Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2012), Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck (2013) and at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (2013). In 2014 the artist was awarded with the prestigious Prix Pictet for his work LEBENSMITTEL. The Prix Pictet exhibition ”Consumption" was on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and then travelled extensively in both Europe and internationally.
The Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive was founded in 1999, and since the artist’s death is organising and preserving the artist’s archive.
OPENING: APRIL 29, 6-9 pm
Opening hours during Gallery Weekend: April 30th & May 1st 11-19 h
The four artists in this exhibition live and work in New York City. They have noteworthy careers featuring extensive participation in international solo and group shows, have lengthy bibliographies, and their work is included in many private and public collections. Moreover, they are cohorts bonded by a sincere admiration for each other’s artistic practice. This is not simply a coincidence.
Over the past two years, the four artists included in this show would regularly convene to discuss certain elements of innovation found not only in their own work, but also in the art world in general. The ambition was to isolate these elements for exhibition. As a group, these artists sought to actively collaborate in selecting who they exhibit with, who provides the writing, what works are shown, how the exhibition is hung, and where the exhibition takes place - all with the intention of defining the format of a larger, synergistic narrative. The whole (exhibition) is greater than the sum of its parts (artworks). Featuring 1-3 pieces per artist depending on surface area/scale, each of the four artists’ work included will visually and contextually cross-inform each other in response to the gallery space.
101/EXHIBIT believes in the gallery’s role to facilitate art that proficiently moves beyond market- and trend-driven aesthetics, such as the prevalent de-skilled abstraction of the day. Here the viewer will be presented with an intricate installation of core “dynamic pictorial models”, which loosely defined is a piece of art that embraces conceptual and material complexity. “Strange tools”; implements extracted from their original context for the purposes of art making (see Rubinstein’s essay for a thorough account) are employed here. And there is an awareness and respect for historical precedent vs. superficial stylistic referencing. Engagement is sought through continuing or further articulating the ideas and painterly concerns of past generations through contemporary means.
Further, painting itself remains instrumental to visual experience and in engaging with today’s culture, but DPMs are neither in full allegiance with painting, nor are they in stark opposition of it. There is a belief that painting should be amorphous, a ready-grow that expands beyond the confines of the frame and becomes sculpture or installation in favor of a greater experience. Content is inherent to the materials. Production technologies, scientific innovation, social media, and the Internet are natural products of our anthropological device and are readily embraced. This embrace is sincere, not ironic.
In conclusion, Dynamic Pictorial Models reflects contemporary art practice as it moves after painting to arrive at today’s polymedia picture environment. It does not cease to be painting, but instead challenges the fundamentals to become non-statically mimetic, hyper-mediated, and fully engaged with self-reflective cultural criticality. Dynamic Pictorial Models absorbs the complexity and power of a fluid coexistent culture and attempts to expose its weight in pictorial, visual, and image language.
Chambers Fine Art is pleased to announce the opening on February 27, 2016 of Yan Shanchun: West Lake, Etchings and Paintings. Born in 1957 in Hangzhou, Yan graduated from the Printmaking Department of the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts (now China Academy of Fine Arts) in 1982, and thus belongs to the generation of artists who were the first to graduate after the academies were closed during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).
The celebrated city of Hangzhou, located in an area of considerable wealth and culture is centered on West Lake, a source of inspiration for poets and painters for hundreds of years. Even when Yan was not living in Hangzhou, memories of the famous lake and celebrated viewing-points never left him and they became the inspiration for much of his work. Now that he lives and works in Hangzhou he can see the lake whenever he wishes although this is less important to him than his memories of it and its unique position within the history of art in China.
Yan is also well versed in ink painting as well as classic Chinese poetry which aim not to describe but to evoke through carefully observed details. That being said, Yan wears his learning lightly and the paintings, works on paper and etchings are memorable for the manner in which they reveal so much while remaining self-effacing and reticent.
Yan’s career has followed an unusual path. For a decade after joining the staff of the Shenzhen Fine Arts Institute in 1993, he devoted most of his time to scholarly pursuits, only returning to painting in 2005. From 2010, however, he has devoted most of his time to the production of etchings, one of the primary print-making techniques in the West for over 500 years. The current exhibition establishes a dialog between Yan’s magisterial paintings and his etchings which are inspired by the same subject matter as the paintings although totally different in scale and impact.
Designed by the artist, the installation provides a peaceful environment in which the viewer can contemplate his works as if displayed in a library or in a private home. Each painting results from the application of multiple layers of pigment, concealing memories of the famous landscape of West Lake that hover in the background and appear only intermittently. Faint touches of color emerge through translucent veils of white and sometimes along the edges of the canvas, but play only a minor role in the orchestration of the multiple layers and shades of white paint. On occasion he works from more than one side of the canvas, creating a tension between horizontal and vertical drips that provide visible traces of the artist’s working process.
That is not necessarily the end of the extended period of creation as he also likes to complicate the spatial dimension of the works by applying thicker layers of paint applied with a palette knife that partially conceal the shifting veils beneath. At first glance the paintings appear to be pale and bleached, lacking in material substance, but as the observer absorbs the evidence of the artist’s creative procedure and relates the hints of colored surfaces to forms from the real world, they assume a legibility as surprising as it is brief. As in certain works by Cy Twombly, the pale, scuffed surfaces allude to a surprisingly wide range of cultural and historical themes.
The new group of copper plate etchings, a technique that Yan finds to be particularly congenial, requires different viewing conditions from paintings. In order to appreciate the technical skills of the print -maker, they need to be examined very closely. Displayed on reading-frames in a library-like setting, Yan’s etchings are particularly magical. Using a mixture of sulfur and olive oil to produce recesses in the copper plate, and printing on Japanese ganpishi paper, Yan creates prints that he describes as having “a luminous, silver-print photography effect, lending the image a heavy, metallic feel similar to how I feel about the West Lake: clear, remote, tempered and classic.” Like the paintings, the etchings are inspired by West Lake but the focus is on evocative details rather than a broader view of the expanse of the lake. For true print-lovers, it is refreshing to see Yan’s poetic etchings that provide the kind of deep satisfaction associated with the great print-makers of the past.
Although Yan is fully cognizant of the long history of abstract painting and print-making in the West, he has been less concerned with rivaling these antecedents than in modifying their example to enrich the valued tradition of Chinese literati who cultivated the arts of calligraphy, painting and poetry in seclusion. That privileged life-style is no longer possible but in his detachment from the goal-oriented atmosphere of the contemporary art world and in the development of his own quiet poetic sensibility equally attuned to poetry and the visual arts, he may be considered a twenty-first century equivalent of these legendary polymaths.
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