Paul Groot

  • To describe the wonders . . .

    THE FACT THAT ARTURO SCHWARZ, the Milan collector, gallerist, and notable art historian, had the opportunity at this year's Biennale to bring before the public a subject that has obsessed him for so long is an issue of simple justice. Schwarz is an expert on the subject of alchemy, not only on its history but also on the influence it has had on the development of art in the 20th century. It must be a surprise even for the connoisseur to see how pervasive the alchemic impulse has been. Schwarz includes a wide and deep spectrum of the alchemic in art, from, say, Francis Picabia, to Surrealism, to

  • Paul Groot

    Luciano Fabro’s Jo, l’uovo (I, the egg, 1978) is included in Sonsbeek 86, but it particularly stays in my mind from a photograph. This shows a Roman fountain, in an almost fairy-tale light. In the waters of the basin floats the sculpture—a glowing bronze egg, open at one end so that we can see the gold-veneered interior. Do I remember seeing Fabro somewhere in the picture’s background? Or is he present only through the marks of his hands in the gold, and through a small image of him, in a fetal position, engraved on the bronze shell? The photograph has a quality of the ideal for me, and I often

  • Fortuyn/O’Brien

    Since the sculptors Irene Droogleevar Fortuyn and Robert O’Brien began their collaboration, in 1983, under the logo Fortuyn/O’Brien, they have designed sculptures that could very accurately be called Post-Modern. On the basis of an ambitious as well as simple program, to which the concept of a domestic art is central, they make sculptures that, in their modishness, can compete with Post-Modern interior furnishings. In consciously exploiting the banal, they hope to expose the roots of art. In this they are posing as Post-Modern dandies, as the mediators of a contemporary spirit that has placed

  • “Don Giovanni: An Opera for the Eye”

    In Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni (1787), the most famous musical interpretation of the story of the legendary woman-conqueror, two recurrent themes in Lorenzo da Ponte’s libretto attract attention. The first is Don Giovanni’s insatiable desire for women, which is really an excuse to avoid facing himself. The second is da Ponte’s almost cynical interchanging of the characters’ identities in order to question the validity of Don Giovanni’s behavior. Da Ponte’s Commendatore, the figure called into existence to punish him in the end, is actually Death in various guises, including the death of Don

  • Günther Förg

    The most noticeable characteristic of the photographs of the German photographer and painter Gunther Förg is that they connect the Post-Modernist idiom with a strong, almost humanist, emotional concern. The human condition in the time after the overthrow of Babylon is intensely observed in his photographs. Locked up in a labyrinth from which there seems no escape, man wanders about in a state of melancholy This desperate post-Babylonian atmosphere is softened only through the communication, made possible by the strongly reflective glass covering the photographs, that connects the viewer directly

  • Rob Scholte

    It pleases me that Rob Scholte’s new work is countering the so-called “wild painting:’Although until recently he made work related to ”wild painting“ he is currently very clear in his rejection of what he now sees as the most degenerate art of the last decade. In the past few years he has been developing successfully a style of painting that truly offers an alternative to the impulsive, semiexpressionistic work of his contemporaries. Scholte’s departure from this emotional style of painting has been gradual. It settled finally on the production of a painting in 64 parts, Rom 87, 1983, which

  • Walter De Maria

    The opening comment by Wim Beeren, director of the museum, in the catalogue accompanying this show of Walter De Maria’s sculpture and drawings is his most interesting one. “Looking at the work of Walter De Maria, one has the feeling that the artist is absent. Today the monumentality of his works has an impact which does not imply an individual, but which compels us to look at them by the sheer virtue of their presence. This is how we look at ancient monuments which have been preserved and whose makers we shall never know.” Although the publicity around this exhibition emphasized De Maria’s name

  • “The Luminous Image”

    I don’t know whether the thinking of Marshall McLuhan is still discussed much abroad—his analysis of hot and cold media, for example—but I remembered him in connection with this show. Whatever one thought about the media in the early ’60s, when McLuhan’s ideas were emerging, at least he offered a position, making possible a warm-blooded exchange of views. As I wandered among the video installations that formed the heart of “The Luminous Image,” and, later, sought in the catalogue for some kind of theoretical stance, I was saddened. Was there any theoretical justification for this arrangement of

  • Closed Quotes

    OVER THE YEARS THE DESIRE to imitate has provided a certain relief, on various levels of importance, for many genuinely interesting artists. At the 1984 Biennale this desire became an inescapable urge, a mode. Citazionismo—quotation—was the ubiquitous password. Even “Aperto,” the section of the Biennale whose mandate is to show young, emerging art and which need not have followed the guiding theme of this year’s exhibition, did not escape the overriding fascination with the past at the expense of the future. Four years ago this was a lively environment where the “new painters” mounted their coup

  • Rob Van Koningsbruggen

    Rob van Koningsbruggen’s graphic work from the early ’70s cannot be understood other than as an ironic commentary on the all-too-easy mannerisms of the conceptual art of the time, Later, van Koningsbruggen put his brush literally in the frame, paradoxically by creating brushless works—paintings that painted themselves; canvases covered with a single color, still wet, were pressed face to face and moved or turned against each other to produce irregular patterns of horizontal, vertical, diagonal, or curved strata. The tones used were black, white, and the primary colors red, yellow, and blue.


  • Hermann Nitsch

    In his filmed performance Maria Conception, 1969, Hermann Nitsch, dressed up in a chasuble and surrounded by his assistants, makes no concessions to illusion. The film’s directors, Irm and Ed Sommer, make it clear that the organizing idea of Nitsch’s simulated surgical operations and flowing blood is one of shock and horror; the distanced tone of their presentation makes his Orgies Mysteries Theatre come over like a slap in the face. The sadomasochistic performance, a welter of anarchism and religious references, culminates in the besmirching of a naked woman bound to a cross with the blood and

  • “Sculpture ’83”

    Anyone proposing an exhibition of contemporary sculpture aiming for the clearest possible statement of what inspires sculptors today should consider Luciano Fabro’s Lo Spirito (The deceased). In this baroque vision a figure lies under the graceful folds of a sheet; one can distinguish feet, legs, torso—but at the neck, the folds of the sheet fall to a pillow on which a head has rested but no longer does so. This sculpture—a figurative work in which the figure doesn’t exist—encapsulates the present artistic situation, and could have provided a focus to “Sculpture ’83.” Instead, one saw artist