Art Basel Highlights21–26 September 2021 - Stand L7
Tacita DeanForeign Policy, 2016
Foreign Policy (2016) is a large-scale work drawn in chalk on blackboard. The piece was originally on loan to the former Head of Diplomatic Services at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and was created specifically with that particular destination in mind; simultaneously evoking the challenge of capturing the mutability of clouds and an epoch of unprecedented global change and uncertainty.
Dean’s cloud collection began in 2014 following her move from Berlin to Los Angeles, where she describes a seminal encounter with a ‘voluminous atomic cloud blooming’ across Sunset Boulevard ‘on pure azure without transitional haze nor other, lesser clouds for company’. Since declaring California as ‘the place for clouds’, the artist has drawn them in chalk on blackboards and spray chalk on slates, ‘found them on postcards, painted round them, photographed and printed them.’
Tacita Dean currently has a solo presentation at Kunstmuseum Basel, where her film Antigone (2018) receives its Swiss premiere. From 17 September–13 November 2021, Frith Street Gallery, London showcases original works relating to Dean's designs for The Royal Ballet's newly commissioned production The Dante Project, with choreography by Wayne McGregor, premiering at London’s Royal Opera House in October 2021.
Shilpa GuptaUntitled, 2020–21
This sculptural work grew out of an early photographic series Don’t See Don’t Hear Don’t Speak (2006). It takes the form of three identical figures encircling one another, each concealing the other’s eyes, ears or mouth. Based on a Japanese proverb of the ‘three wise monkeys’: Mizaru, Kikazaru and Iwazaru who, respectively, cover their eyes, ears and mouth so as not to see, hear or speak badly.
The work invites us to reflect on the limits of freedom of expression and brings to attention the difficult political situation in the artist’s country of origin, in which organizations are often suppressed because of their divergent opinions. ‘Often,’ says Gupta ‘as is happening right now, the voices of the truth cause discomfort and are cut off, yet the echo remains and continues to be heard’. Without doubt the immediate expressiveness of the three figures, whose beauty seems to recall Canova’s Three Graces whilst being somewhat mutilated by the apparently rudimentary stand that replaces the lower part of their bodies, is a powerful warning to fight for this inalienable right.
Shilpa Gupta received a major retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp, Belgium earlier this year and will also have solo exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary, Texas, The Barbican, London and Frith Street Gallery, London this coming Autumn.
JUAN USLÉQuintres (El Aviso), 2021
‘I think that I begin these paintings looking for silence … It’s like a cleansing exercise, to seek emptiness, guided by a biological reference point… I move the brush and press down until the next heartbeat occurs… I try to follow a sequential rhythm, marked by the beating of my pulse … and in general it turns into a sequential field or territory of marks and routes reminiscent of the sea, a landscape, or a pentagram.’ - Juan Uslé
Juan Uslé’s practice reflects on the possibilities of painting. His rhythmic abstractions, constructed with translucent layers of handmade saturated colour, evoke the environs and energy of his homes in Northern Spain and New York City. Quintres (El Aviso) (2021) possesses an intriguing intensity borne from plays of different shades of blue. As is typical for Uslé’s paintings the nuances of pattern and gesture exploit the nature of opposites: between organic and geometric forms, randomness and order and the simultaneous physicality of paint and its ability to disappear into sheer, ethereal surfaces and illusions of light.
Juan Uslé’s work is the subject of a major solo exhibition at Bombas Gens Centre D’Art, Valencia until 26 September 2021.
THOMAS SCHÜTTEFrauenkopf (implodiert), 2019–20
Thomas Schütte is one of the most prominent artists of his generation. He studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf under Gerhard Richter, Daniel Buren and Benjamin Buchloh.
Schütte’s work is influenced by minimal and conceptual art as well as classical sculpture and its powerful codes of representation. Schütte’s installations, sculptures, prints, drawings and watercolours take different and often contradictory forms. His art often looks utilitarian offering sustenance, shelter and companionship yet delivers false promises and alien worlds.
In his practice Schütte returns time and again to human (or human-like) heads. Sometimes grotesque, sometimes comical, often inscrutable, here the artist reassesses the figurative traditions of art, presenting emotionally charged observations of the human condition. The artist has rendered the subject in Murano glass, bronze and ceramic, experimenting with the specific qualities of each medium. Frauenkopf (implodiert) (2019–20) is one of a number of ceramic busts and this particularly interesting work appears, as the name suggests, to have imploded, perhaps during the firing process.
Dayanita SinghCorbu Pillar, 2021
‘As I started to look through my work over the past years, I was amazed at how much of Le Corbusier’s pillars I had photographed. And then I wondered, was that it from the beginning when I was talking about photo-architecture?’ - Dayanita Singh
Corbu Pillar (2021) emerged when Dayanita Singh was editing work in her archive from Chandigarh, the Indian city for which the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965) prepared the master plan and contributed design towards several government buildings and housing.
In Corbu Pillar, Singh continues her investigations into different ways of exhibiting photographs. Much of her recent work takes the form of photographic architecture: structures that are not merely a means of storage or display but are an integral part of her practice. The Pillars in particular are a form developed by the artist which follow on from her mobile Museums. Each Pillar consists of five cubes that can pack flat. This modular design in theory allows for an almost endless rearrangement of the stackable cubes and swapping of photographs.
Dayanita Singh will receive a major solo exhibition that will take over the Gropius Bau, Berlin in March 2022.
Nancy SperoMourning Women: Le Cimetiére de Varsovie, 1993
Nancy Spero’s Mourning Women: Le Cimetiére de Varsovie (1993) depicts groups of women across cultures and centuries. From the mid-1970s, Spero developed a vast dramatis personae of women from a range of sources, including ancient myths, Egyptian goddesses and Celtic fertility figures, as well as Amazon warriors and contemporary athletes. She copied imagery from books in her library before manipulating and incorporating them into her own drawings and collages, creating a celebratory pageant of pagan goddesses.
Mourning Women: Le Cimetiére de Varsovie uses layered Egyptian imagery at the highest point in the work, with a woman or goddess raising her arms up, while within that space there is a different image of a woman in the Warsaw Cemetery amidst the cruelty and suffering of WWII. Below a large gap of empty space that occupies the picture plane like a breath, there are more Egyptian women, raising their arms in sympathy and exultation.
The work was exhibited in two recent museum exhibitions: Nancy Spero: Unbound, Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine, 2018–2019, and Nancy Spero: Paper Mirror, MoMA PS1, New York, NY, 2019.
Callum InnesExposed Painting Caribbean Turquoise, 2021
Callum Innes is known for luminous abstractions that push at the fundamentals of painting: pigment, surface and space. Composed of opaque sections juxtaposed with thin, translucent washes that appear almost permeable, his paintings invoke a dynamic conversation between presence and absence.
Innes generally works in series, allowing his methods to build upon each other and evolve gradually while he works on several paintings at the same time. His famous Exposed Paintings series exemplifies his technique of creating a play between painting and un-painting, where sections of the work have been washed away with turpentine. Exposed Painting Caribbean Turquoise (2021) features interlocking sections of radiant and opaque passages of paint, the range of blues conjuring atmospheres of different textures and densities.
RAQS MEDIA COLLECTIVEThe Ignition, 2020
The Ignition (2020) was produced using lenticular technology, which allows a seemingly solitary photographic image to change or move as it is viewed from different angles. Raqs Media Collective have juxtaposed two maxims – ‘Everything is Burning’ and ‘Doubt Everything’ – against an image of the seated, headless Buddha figure from the remains at the Kesariya stupa in the Motihari district in Bihar, India, where the ‘Advice to the Kalamas’ (Kalama Sutra) was first offered.
The maxims are drawn from two short sutra texts attributed to the Buddha (the ‘Fire Sermon’, and the ‘Advice to the Kalamas’). Used within a lenticular image, they aim to embrace the incandescence and liveliness of the world; at the same time, they insist that we ceaselessly ask questions in order to better place ourselves. The title, The Ignition, harks back to the moment of the spark being lit by Tathagata (‘the one who walked away’), also known as the Buddha, when he was illuminated by the incendiary nature of life and an accompanying awareness of awareness.
Raqs Media Collective have a solo exhibition at Kunstverein Braunschweig open until 28 November 2021 and The Ignition will be included in Hungry for Time. An Invitation to Epistemic Disobedience with Raqs Media Collective at the Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna 9 October 2021–30 January 2022.
Polly ApfelbaumPennsylvania Abstract (Joseph's Dreams), 2021
Apfelbaum has long been intrigued by the ancient craft of ceramics for the time factor that is involved but also the changes wrought during the firing process. She has commented ‘I’m not a trained ceramicist … I’m still learning as I’m going. I work fast, so the pieces are like drawings, but they’re also little paintings. Glazing is painting that’s the thing that I really like’.
These works are part of a new body of work Apfelbaum has been developing for her 2022 exhibition For the Love of Una Hale, at Arcadia University, Pennsylvania, grounded in an extended residency at the University's ceramics studio. Exploring contemporary ideas surrounding craft, gender, and identity, Apfelbaum’s new work melds painting, ceramics and installation. It examines the formative impact of Pennsylvania German art on Apfelbaum's hybrid sensibility, informed by the artist’s engagement with art history, applied arts and popular culture. ‘The goal is to interpret the personal as political,’ says Apfelbaum, citing her long history of working with materials associated with craft and everyday life – such as fabric and rugs. ‘I'm starting to look back at my own history, where the inspiration came from, and how my own biography relates to the complex life and work of the painter David Ellinger.’ Ellinger (1913-2003) was an antiques ‘picker’ and prolific artist from Pennsylvania, known for his oil paintings, Fraktur and stencilled theorems influenced by Pennsylvania German