David Kordansky Gallery is very pleased to announce an exhibition of new work by John Armleder. The show, which will take place in the gallery’s exhibition and reception spaces, will open on January 13 and remain on view through February 25, 2017. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, and his first Los Angeles solo exhibition in over 15 years. An opening reception will be held on Friday, January 13 from 6:00pm until 8:00pm.
John Armleder (b. 1948, Geneva) is a singular figure in postwar art. His career spans five decades and synthesizes many of the competing aesthetic developments associated with that period. Such productive friction animates his earliest work with the Groupe Ecart in Switzerland, his many projects informed by his association with the Fluxus movement, and his interest in John Cage’s work in particular. Moreover, his groundbreaking approach to painting incorporates elements of sculpture, installation, design, performance, and radical conceptual provocation. That he has been able to operate on so many fronts at once, approaching each exhibition as an uncompromising and often unpredictable work in and of itself, has made him a seminal artist of his generation worldwide and one of the defining and most characteristic voices in Swiss art since World War II.
Armleder’s formative intersection with Fluxus places chance at the center of his work. In his paintings, installations, and exhibition design practices, he leaves space for unexpected juxtapositions so that his own aesthetic and philosophical positions appear to be constantly on the move. At the same time, he has developed a signature vocabulary and sense of humor that make his work unmistakably his own. Each of these elements play a role in the current exhibition, which will feature an immersive array of wall paintings, several types of paintings on canvas, and installation-based gestures made in response to the overall effect produced by the other objects.
In one of the gallery’s spaces, wall paintings will be executed on each of the four walls. All feature the same cartoonish image of an octopus, though the image is reproduced in a different color and at a different scale from one work to the next. One consists primarily of a single octopus looming as a massive presence, for example; in others, fields of smaller octopuses are arranged in orderly rows. As is common in Armleder’s practice, the image is borrowed from a casual, even accidental source, having originally graced a napkin in a Greek café. By recontextualising it and transforming it into a vessel for formal experimentation, a seemingly minor event like observing an image out of the corner of one’s eye is endowed with the fullest range of imaginative possibility. Furthermore, by relegating the image to the wall and utilizing it as a kind of perceptual wallpaper, he acknowledges, and even celebrates, the peripheral nature of visual experience. Art becomes the focus of attention precisely by demonstrating what happens when it slips out of view.
Armleder has long been interested in breaking through perceived divisions between art and architecture, art and design, and art and functional objects. A series of works in which the octopus imagery has been screened onto canvas and then paired with found furniture brings these issues to the forefront. The juxtaposition of graphic paintings with readymade objects is one of the artist’s signature moves; just as the octopus represents a found image culled from the world, the furniture speaks directly to ways of seeing that exceed the usual confines of an exhibition space. In the paintings, the curving lines and swirling, circular shapes of the octopus’s body have been reflected, doubled, and superimposed on top of one another, resulting in dense, calligraphic designs. When seen in concert with these images, the otherwise unadorned furniture objects become imbued with new formal potential, as if by sleight of hand, ready to re-enter domestic spaces with a newly aesthetic agenda.
Contrast serves as one of the exhibition’s core principles. It also animates a group of diptychs that bring together clean arrangements of bars or stripes and dramatic compositions rendered with poured paint and glitter. The visual dichotomy between the two parts of each work contains a deeper conceptual one: if the geometric half speaks to an ideal of inherent order, the poured half can only exist as the result of the free and chaotic interplay between pigment, media, and support. Armleder uses the visual languages of minimalism and abstract expressionism, two painterly modes that are in many respects antithetical to one another, to generate provocative questions about intentionality, and the roles of restraint and abandon, in artistic practice.
The artist’s ongoing series of Puddle Paintings, several examples of which are on view in the show, pose further questions of this sort. To create them, large quantities of paint are poured onto a canvas laid flat on the ground; a variety of objects, which might include clumps of ribbon, shiny pipe cleaners, styrofoam balls, and other bric-a-brac, are then tossed into areas where the pooled paint has yet to dry. If these objects are, on the one hand, clear indications of the role that the incidental plays in Armleder’s compositional strategy, they are also structuring elements that provide a foundation for the deeper chance operations at work all around them. Because he employs paints based on different chemical compositions, they interact with one another in unpredictable ways, producing accumulations that resemble everything from geological formations to the aftermath of industrial mishaps. Armleder treats his materials as equal partners in an improvised dance, one in which beauty and humor are intricately woven together, striking a balance between lightness of spirit and seriousness of intention that is a hallmark of his approach.
John Armleder has been the subject of numerous solo museum exhibitions throughout the world. Over the last dozen years alone these have included shows at Le Consortium, Dijon, France (2014); Fernand Léger National Museum, Biot, France (2014); Dairy Art Centre, London (2013); Swiss Institute, New York (2012); Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2011); Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland (2010); Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2006); Tate Liverpool, England (2006); and the ICA, Philadelphia (2006). Recent group exhibitions include Stories Cycle, Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva (2016); Don’t Shoot The Painter, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan (2015); Art In Pop, Magasin-CNAC, Grenoble, France (2014); Abstract Generation: Now in Print, Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013); and The Indiscipline of Painting: International Abstraction from the 1960s to now, Tate St. Ives, England (2011). Armleder lives and works in Geneva.