For Berlin Art Week 2018, Galerie Thomas Schulte opens a comprehensive exhibition showing early works by the American artist Alice Aycock. After studying with Robert Morris at Hunter College, Aycock was one of youngest members during the 1970s of the circle of artists around Gordon Matta-Clark and New York’s legendary 112 Greene Street Gallery. In the context of Land Art and Postminimalism, Aycock created a series of pioneering installations of wood, stone, and concrete already in her early years that move between sculpture, architecture, and landscape. This exhibition shows not only two of her early installations, but also drawings and photographs from her important early projects, including her contribution to Documenta 6. Her drawings and photographs should not be considered mere documentation of the projects realized, but also as forms of expression and thought all on their own that Aycock developed parallel to her sculptures.
For this exhibition, Aycock’s first, process-based installation Sand/Fans will be reconstructed for the gallery’s Corner Space. The work was presented for the first time in 1971 at the legendary 112 Greene Street Gallery, which had been opened a year before by artist Jeffrey Lew. For the installation, the artist brought thousands of kilograms of sand into the gallery space and arranged four fans around a pile of sand. The fans opposite one another generated air currents that eventually spread the sand in wave patterns. Sand/Fans is significant for Aycock’s later work in several ways. She returned to revolving rotor blades as a motif with her “Blade Machines” in the 1980s that were at the center of her travelling exhibition in Europe, “Retrospective of Projects and Ideas 1972-1983,” starting at Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart in 1983. Wind and wave motion are also significant influences on her most recent Twister/Turbulence series of sculptures. It is important for Aycock that art trigger not just intellectual, but also physical, emotional reactions in the viewer. At the same time, Sand/Fans is, as an early Earth Work, a piece in which Aycock positioned herself in the debate around Robert Smithson’s concepts of entropy and the non-site.
The interaction of the viewer with the artwork was brought to the foreground in Maze as well, a project that is presented on photo wallpaper and with sketches and photographs in the gallery’s Window Space. Due to her great interest in architecture and architectural history, which she shared with many of her fellow artists at Greene Street, Aycock discovered a circular plan for an Egyptian labyrinth that was conceived as a prison. With the labyrinth, she found a form to initiate feelings of disorientation in the viewer. “I took the relationship between my point of entry and the surrounding land for granted, but often lost my sense of direction when I came back out. From one time to the next, I forgot the interconnections between the pathways and kept rediscovering new sections.” The accessible sculpture, realized in 1972 near New Kingston, Pennsylvania, became Aycock’s first work that is only completed with the participation of the beholder, quite in the sense of Manfred Schneckenburger’s concept of “sculpture as a form of action.”
The next year Low Building with Dirt Roof (for Mary) 1973 was also created on the grounds of Gibney Farm. Aycock dedicated this project to her young niece who died tragically. This project as well as the projects realized a few years later Simple Network of Underground Wells and Tunnels (1975) and Project for a Vertical Maze: Four Superimposed Cruciform Buildings (1975) are all shaped equally by Aycock’s knowledge of archaeology and her fascination for psychological states of claustrophilia and claustrophobia. The photographs of the built work together with the drawings create a psychophysical experience for the viewer. The works are set up as exploratory situations for the perceiver. This experience is important to Stairs (These Stairs Can be Climbed), a high wooden set of risers and treads that ends close to the ceiling and was first shown at Greene Street Gallery in 1974. Stairs challenges the viewer to climb up the stairs. With each rising step, the climber gets closer to the ceiling and has to bend over more and more. Ultimately as the climber arrives at the top of the stairs to nowhere (a dead end) a feeling of narrow confinement grows. At the same time the climber has a view of the entire space from above. The physical experience of climbing the stairs can also be a metaphor for the experience of life itself.
Although Land Art sought to replace the vertical, “figurative mode” with a horizontal, “landscape mode,” not only Gordon Matta-Clark, with Jacob’s Ladder, but Aycock as well, in her contribution to Documenta 6 The Beginnings of a Complex… (1977), created works that rose in the vertical. Of the five above ground vertical structures connected by underground tunnels that were planned for Kassel – Project Entitled “The Beginnings of a Complex…” (For Documenta, 1977), only two towers were realized. A third structure, a step-like façade wall accessible by way of ladders was added for the final built work. In this work which references Hollywood movie sets among other things, architecture serves as a backdrop for a narrative that viewers construct for themselves. The architectural structures create a set of directions for a performance by the viewer. Aycock was able to complete a third of the five originally planned structures that same year at Artpark in Lewiston, New York with the title Five Walls, an aerial labyrinth in which the viewer moves from ladders through window walls and back the same way. “It seems possible to imagine a complex which exists in the world as a thing in itself, exposing the conditions of its own becoming, and which exists apart from the world as a model for it.”
Alice Aycock (*1946, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) lives and works in New York City. Her work was presented in solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and the United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (1980). Major group exhibitions include the 1979 and 1981 Whitney Biennials in NYC and Content: A Contemporary Focus, 1974–86 at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C. In Germany Aycock was first presented at Documenta 6 (1977) and in 1983/84 in a comprehensive travelling exhibition at Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, and Skulpturenmuseum, Marl. After more than twenty years Galerie Thomas Schulte presented in 2010 the first exhibition of the artist in Germany in the gallery’s space in Berlin. Aycock’s work was included in the first major museum survey on Land Art Ends of the Earth: Art of the Land to 1974 at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Haus der Kunst in Munich (2012) as well as Materializing ‘Six Years’: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art at the Brooklyn Museum (2012/13). An extensive catalogue on her drawings has been published in conjunction with her retrospective at the Grey Art Gallery (New York University) and the Parish Art Museum. The exhibition travelled to the University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 2014.
For this year’s Berlin Art Week Galerie Thomas Schulte presents Jonas Weichsel’s first solo show. The Frankfurt-based artist has created an installation especially for the gallery space that reacts to complex questions on the perception and impact of painting. Using a unique systematic painting technique that combines digital techniques and hand-painted elements with one another, the artist explores the possibilities and limits of painting between immateriality and concrete material presence, simplification and complexity.
The installation consists of various elements that are subject to a more or less controllable process of transformation during the course of the exhibition: a picture from Weichsel’s continuing series of “TC-Bilder”(Two Color Paintings) is mounted especially for the window of the gallery space and is illuminated around the edges by a spotlight.
The glass painting serves literally as a support for the TC painting, which is changed at irregular intervals. At the same time, it fulfils the function of a semi-transparent membrane between the gallery’s inside and outside that dissolves the clarity of the spatial installation. The narrowly arranged, vertical lines of color on the glass were applied with the help of a falling spraying device created especially for this purpose. The spray nozzle, like an ink jet printer, moves horizontally and vertically across the surface. The spread of the lines on the glass, however, depends on various factors: the make up of the paint, outdoor and indoor temperatures, the distance of the nozzle from the glass, and the speed and air pressure of the apparatus. Despite meticulous planning and precision in programming, the occasionally wafting und blurry-edged lines recall the lines produced in scanning processes that have gone awry or traces of color left on the paper by a faulty printer.
Weichsel’s combination of mechanically produced glass painting with the “TC paintings” created by the artist result in questions about authorship, artistic autonomy, and perfection at the intersection between human being and machine. Ultimately the technique and aesthetic of the glass painting corresponds with the feel and the process of creating behind his “TC paintings”, for which Weichsel pulls a special overly-wide brush from top to bottom across the picture’s surface in a minute and patient process, applying several layers of paint. In both cases, his main interest is in a decelerated form of visual creation as a conscious expression of an object-bound understanding of painting that, in contrast to the purely digital image, never exists independent of space and time.
This becomes clear when, depending on the mood of the moment and the way the daylight shines on the window, a constantly changing shadow of color falls on the exhibition space that places the individual visual elements in relation to one another in various ways.
Jonas Weichsel, born 1982 in Darmstadt, Germany, first studied in Mainz and Düsseldorf before completing his Meisterschüler at Städelschule Frankfurt. In 2016, he was awarded a residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy. In 2012, he won the Karl Schmidt-Rottluff Stipendium after having been awarded the Dies Academicus—the Prize of the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz—alongside a scholarship from the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes in 2009. Recent solo exhibitions include the Joseph Albers Museum, Bottrop (2018), Museum Wiesbaden (2016), and Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt a.M. (2013). Important group exhibitions include the MMK – Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt a. M. (2018; 2017; 2011), Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2017), Kunstverein Braunschweig (2016), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2016), Villa Romana, Florence, Italy (2016), Frankfurter Kunstverein (2015), Kunsthalle Wiesbaden (2015), Kunsthalle Mainz (2015; 2010), Kunstraum Bethanien, Berlin (2015), Salondergegenwart, Hamburg (2013), Kunstmuseum Wiesbaden (2012), Heidelberger Kunstverein (2011), Wilhelm Hack Museum (2010), and Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden (2010). Jonas Weichsel lives and works in Frankfurt a.M.