OVERVIEWMAY 16 to JUN 30Group Exhibition
- Group Exhibition
Dates and Opening hoursMAY 16 to JUN 30, 2013
- Channa Horwitz
- Guy de Cointet
- Henri Chopin
Truly cryptic art, chaotic and tidy, variations and transformations, unit and rhythm, typography and symbol = icon. Not figural, but strict and radical; its lush and substantial quality occasions us to look. Communicating is in point of fact invigorating should you actually omit anything from the ABC. Its impact is shocking but by doing so your mind quickly grows lucid.
Forgoing the letter E, as these few sentences above make very evident, does restrict one’s usual expressive possibilities, but at the same time it also gives rise to a new language that generates other images and sounds.
In 1969, the French author George Perec wrote the extraordinary novel La Disparition (published in English under the title A Void), in which the vowel E does not appear. “The novel shows what language can do when it is no longer the author who narrates, but rather language itself through the corset of strict guidelines. The story, the characters and the plot can develop solely from the starting point of the available words. Violent excesses and naked terror shimmer through amid a revolutionary comedy, puzzles that follow upon puzzles and a turbulent crime novel parody. But there is a method behind the terror that reigns here, and namely a linguistic method to the extent that the terror comes about as a result of the language’s manipulation. The gradual and almost without exception cruel vanishing of an entire clan consequentially manifests itself in the missing letter.” As the blurb from Eugen Helmlé’s German translation of A Void [Anton Voyls Fortgang] continues, La Disperation “is an adventure of unequalled magnitude.” In accordance with the aims of the OuLiPo group (“Workshop of Potential Literature”), Perec sought to expand the potentials of language by means of self-imposed constraints – an intention that is similarly binding for the oeuvre of Henri Chopin, Guy de Cointet and Channa Horwitz. All three artists began developing their works in the
1960s, a time when conceptual systematic dealings with the basic parameters of our experience were at the forefront. The opening up of language and communications, the mixing of such diverse media as image, speech, music and performance, the structuring of time and space, the development of artistic systems of categorisation and separate grammars were interpreted by Chopin, de Cointet and Horwitz each in their own specific manner.
The Californian artist Channa Horwitz (born 1932) has worked on a mathematically-based system of drawing since the early 1960s that enables her to visualise motion and time. Almost all of her black and white as well as coloured works are based on a grid of horizontal and vertical lines, on basic geometric shapes as well as the sequence of numbers from one to eight that she declines like nouns in ever new variations: it is an algorithm that can condense into structures of nearly undecodable complexity. Although the severity of her guidelines makes an almost hermetic impression, her fine drawings display a peculiar visual appeal. This derives in equal measure from the spatial vortex visible in many of the drawings, the lines of which applied to tracing paper almost seem as if they were hovering in thin air, as well as from the visible tension between the programmed procedure and the drawn line, between guidelines and freedom within a complex artistic system that Horwitz herself characterises as a “visual philosophy.” Channa Horwitz has been employing notations since the late 1960s that she calls Sonakinatography in the sense of a sound and motion recording, on occasion also the choreographic source material for her performances as well. Her works are equally rooted in the minimalist process of structuring time and space as well as the methodology of the Happening to the extent that the function of the notation shifted from being a passive recording to becoming an active set of instructions. Channa Horwitz studied at the renowned California Institute of the Arts. Although she has been represented at international exhibitions since the mid 1960s, she developed her work secluded from an environment dominated by male colleagues.
From the late 1960s until his early death, the French-born concept artist Guy de Cointets (1934-1983), who bore the nickname “Duchamp Los Angeles,” was also an influential member of the California art scene. His performances as well as his books and drawings are devoted to the boundaries of language and its potentials. The elegant and harmonious prints he produced over his three decades of ascetic work can be read today like a pre-emption of the approaching age of digitalisation. De Cointet particularly dedicated himself to everyday occurrences and adventure stories that he sometimes also translated into mirror writing or military codes. He was not concerned here with the legibility of the works, which can by all means be decoded. Closely related to the then up-and-coming field of structuralism, he was much more interested in the translation of meaning into visual signs that turn into an image. By deconstructing language, he simultaneously exposed the principles they obey. Cointet loved playing with identities and worked under various heteronyms. In doing so he applied his fascination for codes and puzzles to his own artistic persona.
Increasing attention has likewise been paid in recent years to the work of Henri Chopin (1922-2008), a key figure of visual and sound poetry. Particularly in his typewriter poems he explores the relationship between chaos and order. Chopin dissects words into their individual letters, takes up their ornamentation and distils them into graphic images. By doing so, he confronts the meaning of language with the possibility of infinitely transforming its signs. Paper and typewriter enter into an unusual relationship here, which leads to overlappings, crossings, reversals and expansions of writing’s elements. Precise, subtle and humorous written images with a spatial depth structure are created through accentuations in colour and the method of overtyping. Henri Chopin not only had a decisive influence on contemporary poetry as an artist and sound poet but also as a journalist. Alongside his own works he also published pieces by other artists such as Raoul Hausmann, William Burroughs and François Dufrêne in his experimental journals
Cinquieme Saison (1959-1963) and Revue OU (1964 –1974).
For all three artists, this is the first institutional exhibition of their drawings in Germany. With a selection of about 20 works each dating from the 1960s to the 1980s, the Kunsthalle is focussing on works on paper that provide a representative overview of each artist’s oeuvre.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring an introduction by Lodi Vers and Magdalna Holzhy, an essay by Gregor Stemmrich as well as introductory texts on the three artists by Marie de Brugerolle, Luca Cerizza and Chris Kraus.
The performances “Variations on Sinakinatography” by Channa Horwitz and “Five Sisters” by Guy de Cointet, with sets and lighting design by Eric Orr, will be staged in conjunction with the exhibition opening on 15 May 2013.
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