Are you series?

Last week ‘Are you series?’ opened at Philara Düsseldorf, displaying over a hundred works from 28 artists all in one room, the exhibition is aptly named. The featured artists are students of Professor Johannes Wohnseifer at the Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM.) Together they have created a show that turns the notion of serial art on its head.

_SAM8403

Whilst each of the artists have produced a series of works these are displayed in a far from traditional manner. Rather than showing each series as a unit the works have been separated and spread across the room to intermingle with one another.Treating the output of 28 artists as a uniform series could have gone seriously wrong, especially when such a range of techniques and materials have been used. However ‘Are you series?’ skilfully juxtaposes a huge variety of works in order to highlight their individual strengths.

11074296_936264873072621_1934145407204675491_n

Take the work of Lukas Johannes Heerich’s who has stretched large pieces of beige fabric over frames so that they each feature a single fold. Whilst their minimal elegance allows them to stand alone they are surrounded by other works that add to their aesthetic appeal. The grafitti-inspired pictures of Severin Humboldt which flank one of Heerich’s canvases could not be further from their neighbour’s simplistic style; created from a mix of digital mediums Humbodt’s colourful inkjet-printed pictures feature images of brick walls with slogans such as ‘Smoke some weed’ sprayed upon them. Although the juxtaposition is obvious it is not intrusive, the contrast in styles serves to highlight the strong points of each.

FullSizeRender

Looking about the room one is confronted by a conscious interruption of artistic techniques, this frenetic display is nonetheless united by the high-quality of the pieces on show as well as the overriding sense of humour that accompanies them. The show’s irony is summed up by the decision to place one of Julius Metzger’s sloganized doormats which reads ‘Calm down all these years’ parallel to Hermes Villena’s photograph of a debauched man swinging around a pole over which is written: ‘The only thing that is going to survive in a depression is a good time.’

FullSizeRender (1)

‘Are you series? avoids over-crowding by establishing key focal points throughout the room. The gallery space is a white-washed warehouse whose pillars, rather than obstructing the perspective have been incorporated into the layout in order to orientate the viewer. At the centre of the room are Roman Hahlbrock’s ‘Shritte’, a set of see-through, 3D-printed steps which suspended from the ceiling, act as an abstract view-finder through which the rest of the exhibition can be observed.

_SAM8392

By challenging visitors to piece together the deconstructed series themselves ‘Are you series?’ demands  engagement. The show overcomes its size with an arresting layout and a sharp sense of wit that leave the viewer feeling refreshed rather than overwhelmed.

‘Are you series?’ is on at Philara Düsseldorf until 10th May.

Photographs courtesy of Jan Höhe

Advertisements

Kunstakademie Düsseldorf Rundgang 2015

I am willing to contradict the tagline of this blog in order to discuss this year´s Kunstakademie Düsseldorf Rundgang which took place last week.

Düsseldorf Art Academy has long since been considered one of Europe’s foremost Art Schools, the likes of Paul Klee have taught there and amongst its alumni it boasts Joseph Bueys and Gerhard Richter to note just a couple. This being the case it is not surprising that the institution’s degree show or ‘Rundgang’ is one of the most observed events on the German arts calendar.

KAD_Flur_01

At Düsseldorf the professors pick their students. This means that the each room at the degree show (which takes up the entire three floors of the art school building) is dedicated to a specific professor’s class, or the works that said professor has chosen to represent his class. As for the ‘unselected’ students their work is left, perhaps unfairly, to line the corridors between each of the showrooms. Discrimination aside, with Peter Doig and Andreas Gurksy as current professors it was with a sense of anticipation that I first stepped through the academy’s doors.

Sadly what came next, as seems to be the case with most large degree shows, was disappointing. Of course one can put this down to probability, with so many artworks on display it is inevitable that only a few will stand out in the end. The pieces that shone did so for the personality behind them. Take Katharina Beilstein’s ‘Platforms’; a range of brightly coloured sculptures, precisely crafted from wood and plastic to take the form of outlandish platform shoes. Although one could argue that they are more fashion design than fine art, the quality of the pieces themselves as well as their clear character made a refreshing change from the foggy mass of almost-anonymous art.

IMG_1662   IMG_1664

I believe that Art Schools play a pivotal role in helping students to find their ‘artistic identity’ and I do not wish to undermine this process for a second. However I myself belonging to a generation whose identity has been dwarfed by the internet, couldn’t help feeling disheartened by the lack of creative autonomy on display. Internet MEEMS reproduced in various mediums alongside an over-prevalence of frankly past-it 90’s themes worked together to give the impression of a bunch of people that had spent too much time on Instagram.

But perhaps that was the point, perhaps it was this precise feeling of living in an identity-less digital age that the students wished to relay. However if this was the case then I  can’t help feeling that they could have done so with more humour. There was one example which can be upheld as managing both of these things and that was one student’s identical recreation of Gerhard Richter’s ‘Betty,’  a clear middle-finger to the anonymity of our age, at least it made me laugh.

IMG_1672