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FRANZ WEST: The Viennese Friend

08FEB13 - 05MAY13

Museum Alex Mylona – Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art presents the exhibition Franz West: The Viennese Friend - Franz West and Herbert Brandl, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Peter Kogler, Mariella Simoni, Octavian Trauttmansdorff, Otto Zitko, Heimo Zobernig, curated by Denys Zacharopoulos.

The exhibition will run from the 8th of February until the 5th of May 2013, with an opening reception on Friday, February 8, at 20:00. The exhibition is a production of the Museum Alex Mylona-Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration with the Institute for Contemporary Art and Thought ITYS.

For more than 30 years, the existence of Franz West (1947-2012), one of the most important artists of our times, enabled many younger artists, as well as established artists, critics, and curators in Vienna as well as from other countries, to join each other and pursue a common direction through works of art, exhibitions, organizations, trajectories, events.

Denys Zacharopoulos, jointly with ITYS Foundation, pays tribute to this important artist: having worked with him since the early 1980s, he showcases a series of works by the artist's friends and companions, spanning this period and reflecting the invisible cities in which friendships and works of art animate the languages and idioms of the time.

According to Denys Zacharopoulos, the curator of the exhibition:
For a long time the body was considered the soul’s envelope. We had to wait many centuries before this envelope was opened, its contents examined, studied, and memorized. Since that time, the body has undergone numerous transformations. It has been imagined as a toolbox, a collection of instruments or organs, an ensemble of functions. The open envelope has given way to a box, a machine, an inventory, a network.
Sculpture since Rodin and Medardo Rosso, since Brancusi and Duchamp, by shattering the ancient art of statuary, has shown us a new vocation that incorporates the contents into the box, the inventory into the stock, the whole into the fragment, the network into the station. The sculptor’s reason, historical or formal, has gone from the pedestal to geometry, from the unit to the number, turning the opening of this envelope and its stolen letter into a special service of the Post Office with its required stamps, mailboxes, sorting stations, postmen, mail trucks, deliveries, and addresses.
Of this vast space of circulation in the world, Fontana has grasped the concept, Newman the action, Giacometti the explosion, Yves Klein the aura, Piero Manzoni the impetuosity, Beuys the profundity, Broodthaers the inertia, Pistoletto the dimension, LeWitt the constant, Bruce Nauman the variable, Mario Merz the infinity… Bringing us, this very day, to the moment when the letter carried all the way to us, open, delivers us to meaning… Suspended in the world’s space as though thunderstruck, we bare our flanks to the heavens, impetuous in the face of profundity, versatile in the face of inertia, steady in the face of this dimension that casts us into infinity.   

Henceforth, the work of art clings to us like the violin to the violinist’s shoulder, the crutch to the cripple’s armpit, the suitcase to the traveler’s grip, the infant to his mother’s breast, the sofa to Madame de Recamier’s bottom, wings to the substance of angels, light to the summer sky, desire to the tree of knowledge, the rubber stamp to acts of government, the receiver to the operator’s ear, the voice to the singer’s stomach, nudity to the shudder of love, the universe to the path of the stars, sleep to the hour of rest, the horizon to the wanderer’s step, drunkenness to the essence of wine.
Animated space clings to us and envelops us –we who are so fragmentary and oblique- it contains us, holds us in, itinerant or sedentary with our thousands of flanks bared and surrendered to the soul, which unfurls its floral coverlet like a maternal sheet over a column of bone and marrow.
In galleries and parks, exhibitions and urban passageways, within the framework of institutions and in the triviality of the everyday world, Franz West puts together parts of the soul -terrifying and sweet, majestic and fragile, repellent and tender- and puts us back together in his work as in a great patchwork quilt: passstücke, sofas, chairs, movements, dyes, postures, carpets, videos, voices, gestures, perspectives, people, colors and feelings, things and passions like the image in the tapestry of the world that gives us meaning.
To this very moment and henceforth, the soul is the body’s envelope.

He also discusses Franz West’s relationships with his friends and fellow artists who are presented in the exhibition:
Franz West, Herbert Brandl, Peter Kogler, Octavian Trauttmansdorff, Otto Zitko and Heimo Zobernig, all Austrian artists, who had met in the beginning of the ‘80s and had since worked closely, shared the artistic attitude changing the reality of Austria's international presence, not because they created a new tendency, but because they collaborated in as a very open and interesting platform, where ongoing dialogue of everyday life in artistic research, would influence a broader meaning of culture.

Contrary to a pedantic and conformist conception of culture they succeded to establish a substantial notion of cultural action through their unconventional attitude and irony towards any form of academicism or solemnness. Their stance attracted a large number of significant artists from around the world, like Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger and Mariella Simoni, thus succeeding in transforming the art world, the art market and the pedagogy of the educational institutes of Vienna, and generally in Austria, and turning a parochial and closed society into an international, open and unpredictably lively intellectual and artistic community.

Led by Franz West, they dynamically and imaginatively confronted every inherent tendency towards conformity and rigidity that comes with recognition and power.  Till the end, Franz West systematically inspired his environment to stay young and to continue to be amazed by things around us, question everything and treat everything with naivety and humor, starting first, generously, with the self critical position of the artist himself who denounces publicly his own narcisism. Therefore, artists such as Mike Kelly and Martin Kippenberger among others were by his side and shared the demystification of the mystical role of the artist and the social dimension of the work as a critical tool or as a tool that provokes critical crises and awaken the public as well as the artist mind.

From John Baldessari, Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Jimmy Durham to Mario Merz, Pierpaolo Calzolari, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Yannis Kounellis and Marina Abramovic, as well as many of his peers, such as Jean Marc Bustamante, Juan Munoz, Thomas Schütte, Günther Förg, Reinhard Mucha, Albert Oelen, Richard Deacon and Ernst Caramelle, the group of artists around him were constantly open sharing controversy and debate that struck a blow against any  type of formalism and conformism. Through his work, he completes an artistic and intellectual legacy he passes on to the younger generations, which makes of the Viennese Friend, a permanent living figure among us.
In 2012, Franz West left his chair empty. This chair, which combines its utilitarian role as well as its status as sculpture, is not only a symbol of the artist's work, but secured the artist a membership in the Academy of Arts of Vienna and a presence in his friends' homes, in Documenta 9 and 10, and several museums and foundations around the world.

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Last modified onWednesday, 12 March 2014 20:42
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