In Modern Times people are struggling to take part in the rat race for survival in times of modernism, while in London a gallery tried another strategy to sell modernist art to survive the crisis in a country with a predominantly conservative taste.
More than 80 years later we live in a post-postmodern era but we still feel the tremors of the great social, economic and artistic modernist age that was the 20th century.
Rianne Groen – who closed down her gallery in Rotterdam only recently – co-operated with Billytown – the Hague platform that constantly struggles for new perspectives – to make a new Modern Pictures for Modern Rooms show with Lieven Hendriks (1970) and Thomas Trum (1989), in which she tries to take a fresh look at what decoration means in the context of art in daily life of the post-postmodern present.
Billytown’s space is hardly the place to create a cosy living room, but with some adaptations a place with familiar elements which suit a former school building was created as an environment for Hendriks’ and Trum’s works.
Abstraction (which historically became the hallmark of modernism) is clearly a principle of Trum’s lively material improvisations, while Hendriks brings back abstraction into hyper-reality with his trompe l’oeil paintings.
With its big windows the art doesn’t just seem to give context to Billytown’s space but also to the reality of street life outside the gallery.
Trum’s monumental One Purple Line seems to become part of the square outside Billytown.
Under a somewhat anachronistic title former teacher at the Royal Academy in The Hague Jan van der Pol has been given the opportunity at Galerie Helder to make an exhibition with some former students of the Academy.
For a change Van der Pol didn’t choose young and promising but midlife and – as we may hope – midcareer.
Channa Boon (1967), Eva Klee (1970), Rob Knijn (1966) and Arianne Olthaar (1970) are very different artists indeed and it is as if Van der Pol has tried to create a very wide ranging ensemble, reaching to the stars as well as to the intimacy of a home and walking the tightrope between reality and imagination (which is what art is usually about).
Olthaar shows a combination of the past and present in a scruffy space, once glittering and trendy, awaiting its final demolition, while Knijn, in some recent works, brings the world of stars and almost dreamy abstraction back to the reality of a framed painting on a wall, although even that doesn’t seem to be real reality.
Boon distorts reality with reality itself, blurring the already shaky line between reality and interpretation, while Klee defines the home as a small secluded clay space where the mind shapes its own raw bulbous forms, the human spirit as a clay pitcher.
When he started teaching by the end of the 1970s, there was a kind of split between traditional craftsmanship and (traditionilised) conceptualism at the Academy, and there was little room for individual artistic development.
Both sides took themselves extremely seriously and Giezen, as a newcomer, didn’t seem to fit in very well.
He appealed to the inventiveness and imagination of his students, which was quite unusual at the time (and which is still, or again, a sensitive point at the Royal Academy and in education in general).
He didn’t care very much for technique or aesthetics, contrary to what we had learned so diligently.
“Make a chair!” he told us, for our first assignment.
Students who were all thumbs, like me, were initially shocked, but soon it became clear that it was nowhere necessary at all to construct a piece of furniture.
His ways of seeing and working didn’t influence me immediately, but later on they did so undeniably.
As a teacher he was easy going, accessible, good humoured and never imposing himself as the master who knows all.
That is also how his work looks like.
Giezen was very inquisitive about the playful en inventive aspects of humanity, again, not interested in technique or aesthetics, and extremely uninterested in financial and eternity values.
Near the place where William I of Orange (1533-1584) unwillingly left a hole in the wall and in time, Monshouwer and Van Wijk are also creating space and time but, happily, they are still actively doing so.
Monshouwer shows paintings, text drawings and a small sculpture.
The sobriety of his work is in stark contrast with the sheer inexhaustible array of objects, computer prints and installations by Van Wijk.
While Monshouwer’s abstractions reflect on the social and aesthetic implications and relics of modernism in urban housing, Van Wijk’s work drags you into the space in between the walls, inside and outside, freely narrowing or widening the gap as it pleases.
It is as if space itself re-imposes its rule over architecture and the landscape, creating a kind of architecture of the vacuum.
While Van Wijk corrupts every sense of measurement and as such invents new shapes for space, Monshouwer re-assesses the world of modern urban measurement and the abstract remnants it leaves in the mind as a remembrance of the ideals of modernism in the microcosm of the city.
Not without a tour de force these seemingly incompatible spirits are drawn together in the exhibition, challenging the viewer.
Quite successfully so, as both seem to reinforce each other’s qualities.
Although it’s wonderful to see works by both artists in Delft, it is a bit strange that they are not household names in The Hague itself.
As i have written quite extensively about this show in VLR, i leave you here just with some impressions without comments, of course with the recommendation to go and see it all for yourself. It is this show’s last week!