Opening: Saturday, September 25, 2010, 7pm
Press preview: Friday, September 24, 2010, 1pm
Kunsthalle Basel proudly presents the first solo show outside of Germany of works by Marieta Chirulescu (*1974), a Romanian-born artist who is based in Berlin. Comprising new and recent works that form one extended installation, the exhibition fills the historical upper floor gallery of the Kunsthalle—the “Oberlichtssaal” (sky-lit hall)—and two adjoining small rooms.
In 2006, during a visit to her former family home in Romania, Chirulescu discovered an archive of black-and-white photographs, made by her father, which documented his early life in a student apartment and his later work as an agronomy engineer running a state apple farm. Excised from their historical, professional and personal context, these images, which, in Chirulescu’s words, “praise agriculture, poverty, daily life, improvisation”, constitute a stock from which the artist often borrows. The technical and compositional imperfections of these original black-and-white prints and negatives, as well as their poor state of preservation, provided an analogue matrix for the digitally transformed images that the artist uses as material in her works.
Indeed, rather than making images, Chirulescu is “taking” pictures and presenting them as readymades. Although her recent image-based works mounted at the Kunsthalle may look like they have been painted, they are mostly printed, with the exception of “Untitled (studio loop)” (2010), which was produced with the aid of rectangular stencils and gesso and graphite on canvas. All the artist’s other works on view were realized in myriad, often mixed, techniques that involve printing and copying. These include Laserchrome prints face-mounted on Diasec, inkjet images printed on canvas, photocopies mounted on canvas, prints from scanned black-and-white archival photographs and negatives, as well as a variety of digital prints from Photoshop-manipulated digital files. Chirulescu uses advanced technologies of reproduction to excavate the originals from the sediment of copies. By copying the empty underside of the scanner lid or a glass plate placed on the photocopier, Chirulescu retains the rectilinear frame of reference that conditions our way of seeing and understanding the world, and that typifies every painting, window, mirror, house or book. But while preserving the frame and the grid, Chirulescu also eliminates most of the identifiable referents within it. The “subjects” of her works, then, are not the stuff and protagonists of the real world, but the afterimages and reflections of the “mechanical unconscious” of scanners and copy machines, or records of instantaneous events in nonhuman environments, such as digital errors of image-processing software. In an untitled inkjet print from this year, for example, a sheet of rough, black paper was scanned and enlarged to reveal the mesh of capillary white lines in the seemingly impenetrable black monochrome. Likewise, most of the works on view are untitled, although some bear generic or descriptive subtitles in Romanian, such as “oglinda” (mirror), “brânză” (cheese), “forma 2” (form 2) or “spatiul gri” (grey space) — this latter work being a print made from a digital reproduction of an abstract painting found on the internet. Often, Chirulescu uses Photoshop to probe the structure of the image itself, erasing, blurring and reconfiguring the digital data. Accordingly, and in an unpublished statement, the artist recently spoke of “concentrating on irregularities, technical problems, the reality which fades, black margins, cutoff margins, etc”.
Perhaps the simplest and most visible work in Chirulescu’s Kunsthalle Basel exhibition is the sculptural object “Block” (2010), which features an elongated bench-like white cube of painted MDF that is placed along the wall opposite of where most of the artist’s twodimensional pieces are shown. A stripe of tar-coated paper stretches across the floor behind the sculpture. At first sight, the modestly sized two-dimensional works appear to recapitulate the grand themes of twentieth-century painting and sculpture: the geometric abstract art of Constructivism, the chance operations and mystic symbolism of Surrealism, the gestural scripture of Abstract Expressionism and the industrial economy of forms of Minimalism. And yet, a closer look will reveal another important and far more casually direct, although no less historically charged source of Chirulescu’s practice—the modern techniques of mechanical reproduction. At once, the nonsubjective, absolute and concrete forms of geometric abstraction, the subjective universal and emotive signs of non-geometric abstraction, as well as Minimal and Conceptual art’s debasement of the original in favour of the copy, and image in favour of text, are pitched against the belief in the truth of realistic representation and the singularity of the art object as a metaphysical idol and capitalist commodity. The tension between nonrepresentational art and art preying on appropriated images (from Andy Warhol’s early drawings inspired by the fashion industry to Gerhard Richter’s “18. Oktober 1977” series of photo-based paintings) is of decisive importance to twentieth-century art, and Marieta Chirulescu sets her work firmly in this discourse, further complicating it. As she might agree, after the last image, there is only more.
< Online review at Artline
The exhibition is supported by
Rumänisches Kulturinstitut Titu Maiorescu.
Marieta Chirulescu, was born in 1974 in Sibiu (Romania), she lives and works in Berlin. Solo shows: Galerie Micky Schubert, Berlin (2010); Projektraum Temporäre Kunsthalle, Berlin (2009); Kunsthalle Mainz (2009). Group shows (selection): Fade Into You, Herald St, London (2010); The hoax is a hoax or may or may not be, Galerie Carlos Cardenas, Paris (2010); La preuve concrète/ The Concrete Proof, Centre Européen d’Actions Artistiques Contemporaines, Strasbourg (2009); Gesang von Abschied und Neubeginn, Mayerei, Karlsruhe (2009); Max Hans Daniel present, Autocenter, Berlin (2009); Against Interpretation, Studio Voltaire, London (2009); Marieta Chirulescu / Sascha Hahn, Galerie Kienzle & Gmeiner, Berlin (2009); Nothing to say and I am saying it, Kunstverein Freiburg (2009); Marieta Chirulescu / Claudia Kugler, Galerie Sima, Nürnberg (2009); Out of Line, Galerie Kienzle & Gmeiner, Berlin (2008); Marieta Chirulescu / Manuela Leinhoss, Dicksmith Gallery, London (2008); Ulla Rossek / Marieta Chirulescu, samsa project room, Berlin (2008); Im Lichte milder Verklärung, Galerie Kienzle und Gmeiner, Berlin (2008).