Museum exhibition

Heimo Zobernig: Wood painting

Malmö Konsthall, Malmö, Sweden
30 January - 1 May 2016

The Vienna-based artist Heimo Zobernig has achieved wide recognition for his sculptures, paintings, videos and performances. With works that respond to the legacy of the discourses and themes of formalist, abstract and Minimalist art, often establishing a close dialogue with the architecture and history of a specific place, he is an important representative of the artists associated with “Kontext Kunst” (Context Art) in the German-speaking art scene of the 1990s. His practice is defined by a calculated balance that playfully calls into question form and function, as well as the presentation and staging of art.

For this solo exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, which is Zobernig’s first solo presentation in the Nordic countries, a series of new sculptures reflects on the iconic architecture of the gallery space, unpacking its role as a neutral container for art. The artist has incorporated the temporary partition walls built to display works in the preceding exhibition, Joan Jonas’s Light Time Tales, which have been left unaltered in their original positions. This enables them to gain significance as sculptures that bear an ambivalent resemblance to plinths and stage props, subtly questioning what an artwork is.

The exhibition title sets up a dialogue with the ideas of the legendary Swedish theatre and film director Ingmar Bergman, who in 1954 wrote the play Wood Painting for his students at the Malmö City Theatre. Inspired by a fourteenth-century mural painting of a little church in southern Småland, Bergman’s production depicted various characters’ attempts to avoid the Black Death, and shortly afterwards became the basis for his celebrated film The Seventh Seal.

Dispersed through the exhibition space are modular stage podiums whose tops are covered by a black and white chequered fabric. They appear soft, warm and fluffy, inviting viewers to sit on them and spend time in the gallery while gently directing their attention to the building – a work of architecture as famous as its exhibition programme. Geometric nets and chequered boards have been a recurring motif in Zobernig’s work. If the grid was adopted as a formalist vocabulary by significant modernist artists, from Piet Mondrian and Max Bill to Sol LeWitt, Zobernig deploys it as a way to spoil the viewer’s thirst for visual pleasure, and to suggest a freer understanding of art as an open visual code.

A publication will be released by Malmö Konsthall during the exhibition’s run. In collaboration with the independent curator and editor Moritz Küng, the artist has produced a hybrid between a catalogue raisonné and an artist’s book titled Books & Posters. Presenting and contextualising over two hundred artist’s books, monographs, exhibition catalogues and posters, the publication will offer an original and comprehensive overview of the ways in which Zobernig has engaged with an expanded notion of publishing as a way to explore the linguistic aspects of art.

Curator: Diana Baldon

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