As its name might suggest, this exhibition revolves around the work, career and character of one of the twentieth century’s most influential sculptors: Franz West (1947-2012). Curated by artist and fellow-Austrian Andreas Reiter Raabe (b. 1960), it brings together an eclectic range of work, including key pieces by Franz West and his New York-based contemporaries, plus recent work by emerging artists. The historical counterpoint is West’s and Reiter Raabe’s artistic forefather, radical outsider and fellow countryman: Egon Schiele (1890-1918). The starting point of the exhibition is Reiter Raabe’s film about the artist: Franz West (2007- 2012). Through the video footage he recorded at West’s studio, Reiter Raabe has created an intimate portrait of the artist and his working methods while simultaneously revealing something infinitely less tangible: West’s thought processes. The central tenet of the exhibition is to convey Franz West’s specific approach to art and ideas, which revolved around his unhindered curiosity and wild way of thinking, working and collaborating. This dynamism serves as a catalyst for a different way of seeing. With the human body as the main creative instrument, West’s unconventional and unconstrained attitude enabled his objects to become agents of a transfer of energy between artists and among audiences. Furniture – as an extension of the human body – is also an important component of his oeuvre. His approaches, which this exhibition seeks to revive, are anarchic and nonhierarchical. Although it includes works by other artists, this exhibition is not a classic group show as it does not aim to represent influences and references in any usual way. The exhibition includes work by: Egon Schiele, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Mike Kelley, Haegue Yang, Thomas Schütte, Anne Schneider, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Urs Fischer, Andreas Reiter Raabe and Mit Jai Inn. A number of these artists have long been associated with Franz West, most notably as contributors to his exhibition projects. These were the shows in which West created a particular atmosphere or arranged works by different artists in a special configuration, thereby establishing the unique modus operandi that made the final exhibition a work of his own. Other artists, who never participated in his projects, share an affinity with West and add their own voices to the dialogue. In addition, Wild West is also an ode to West’s long history of exhibiting at De 11 Lijnen. In 2005, West presented Der Ficker at the gallery: a group exhibition in which he showed his own work in conjunction with pieces by his artist friends and colleagues. West was so enamoured of the project that he returned the following year for a second edition of Der Ficker. He later created a work for the project Sculpture in Nature, Nature of Sculpture (2009). Yet Franz West was not merely an artistic collaborator, he was a dear friend. In the words of Griet Dupont, founder of De 11 Lijnen: ‘If I were to define Franz in just a few words, I would say: anarchy, freedom of expression, friendship and collaboration.’
Franz West (1947–2012, Vienna)
Franz West is widely regarded as one of the most important artists to have emerged from post-war Europe. His artistic and spiritual legacy is immense. West rose to prominence in Vienna during the 1970s and achieved acclaim for his portable sculptures known as Paßstücke (‘Adaptives’). Although feted as a sculptor, West’s oeuvre also includes drawings, collages, videos, furniture and installations, often incorporating a wide range of materials such as papier-mâché, cardboard, plaster and found images. By playfully manipulating everyday materials and imagery in novel ways, he created objects that serve to redefine art as a social experience, thereby calling attention to the way in which art is presented to the public, and how viewers interact with works of art and with each other. Collaborations with artist colleagues were an intrinsic part of his practice and a permanent source of inspiration. West received numerous awards during his lifetime, most notably the Wolfgang Hahn Prize bestowed by the Gesellschaft für Moderne Kunst, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1998) and the Golden Lion at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). His works were included in Documenta IX in Kassel (1992) and the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh (1995). A comprehensive mid-career survey exhibition Proforma (1996) traveled from the Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna to the Kunsthalle Basel and the Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller in the Netherlands. He exhibited Projects 61 at MOMA New York in 1997 and showed at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 1998. Recent posthumous solo exhibitions include Wo ist mein Achter? at MUMOK, Vienna, and the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main (2013) and Mostly West: Franz West and Artist Collaborations at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (2013). A major retrospective exhibition of his work will be held at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and Tate Modern in London in 2018 and 2019.
Egon Schiele (1890 Tulln an der Donau – 1918 Vienna)
Egon Schiele, alongside Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, is one of the most important representatives of Viennese Modernism. Despite the passage of time and the immense popularity of Schiele’s work, it has lost none of its power to shock and provoke. Over a century later, his oeuvre still attracts the attention of censors. Schiele, who was a protégé of Klimt, often painted portraits of his family, including his younger sister Gertrude, female lovers, male friends, female prostitutes, and most graphically and innovatively of all, himself. Rejecting traditional poses that idealized the human form, Schiele’s nudes are notable for their astonishing directness: expressive facial gestures, twisted torsos and limbs, and erotically charged poses, often with blatantly exposed genitalia. His depiction of isolated figures on otherwise blank sheets of paper removes the distraction of narrative content, forcing viewers to focus on the essential humanity of his subjects. The artist often used unconventional techniques, such as bold charcoal outlines and watercolors in non-naturalistic tones, to depict muscles, flesh and bony physiques. Schiele’s art is a visual expression of the turbulent era in which he lived, with the naked and emancipated body – exposed by the artist – as a carrier of suppressed emotion. Schiele’s work articulates a latent existential angst and reveals what it means to stand on the edge of an abyss. Eros (the instinct towards life) and Thanatos (the instinct towards death) are constant themes in an oeuvre that was often inspired by the charismatic pioneers of modern, independent dance and non- European forms of theater. Schiele died on October 31, 1918, just six months after his first commercially successful exhibition in the Secession. His 28-year old wife, who was pregnant, had died not long beforehand; they were both victims of the Spanish influenza epidemic. In his own words: ‘I paint the light that emanates from all bodies. Erotic works of art are also sacred.’
Emily Kame Kngwarreye (1910 Utopia, Soakage Bore, Australia—1996 Alice Springs)
Emily Kame Kngwarreye is one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists. Born at the beginning of the twentieth century, she grew up in a remote desert area known as Utopia, 230 kilometers north-east of Alice Springs. Although Kngwarreye only started to paint when she was approaching 70, she enjoyed a glittering career that lasted some eight years, during which time it is thought she produced some 5,000 paintings. In just the years from 1990 to 1993, Emily’s works were shown in no less than forty-eight group exhibitions. Her paintings were influential in altering the course of Australian Aboriginal art, which evolved from the use of traditional iconography towards the depiction of open and abstract landscapes. Kame Kngwarreye was steeped in the ancestral stories and song cycles of her region and a practitioner of the traditional body painting techniques used in female dance ceremonies. She was also a leader in women’s ceremonial rites, or Awelye (women’s dreaming). Emily’s work was inspired by her cultural life as an Anmatyerre elder, her lifelong custodianship of the women’s Dreaming sites in her clan country of Alhalkere, and by the landscapes, seasons, rains, floodwaters, seeds, plants and spiritual forces that she experienced on a day-to-day basis. Highly expressive and abstract, her paintings are unique in the landscape of Aboriginal art. Kame Kngwarreye’s style shifted over the years, from colorful dots over linear patterns in her early work to bold stripes, often on dark grounds, by the mid-1990s.
Mike Kelley (1954 Detroit – 2012 South Pasadena, California)
Mike Kelley is considered to be one of the most influential artists of our time. Originally from a suburb of Detroit, Kelley attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, before moving to Southern California in 1976 to study at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), from which he received an MFA in 1978. The city of Los Angeles became his adopted home and the site of his prolific art practice. In much of his work, Kelley drew from a wide spectrum of high and low culture and was known to scour flea markets for America’s cast-offs and leftovers.Mining the banal objects of everyday life, Kelley elevated these materials and used them to question and dismantle Western conceptions of contemporary art and culture. Starting out in the late 1970s, Kelley became known for performance and installation-based works before achieving prominence in the 1980s with a series of sculptures composed of common craft materials and stuffed animals. His work later widened in scope and physical scale, exemplified by Educational Complex (1995), the ftandors series (1999 – 2011), the Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction series (2000 – 2011), and the posthumously completed public work Mobile Homestead (2006 – 2013). These projects invoke a vast range of media and forms, thereby illustrating the artist’s versatility while also underscoring a number of recurrent themes in his oeuvre: repressed memory, sexuality, adolescence, class, and Americana. Throughout his career, Kelley also worked on curatorial projects, collaborated with many artists and musicians, and produced a formidable body of critical and creative writing. One of his highly acclaimed collaborations was with Franz West, an exhibition entitled Mike ftelley, Franz West: To Be Read Aloud, which was shown in Brussels and Angoulême in 1999.
Urs Fischer (1973 Zurich, lives and works in New York)
Fischer creates a universe made up of objects, figures and environments, all permeated with a sense of the absurd and irony, coaxing comparisons with the multifarious practices of Martin Kippenberger, Franz West, Fischli & Weiss, and others. Fischer’s work simultaneously echoes the shifting moods of Dada, Pop Art and conceptualism. During his time living in Berlin, as well as in New York, Fischer shared studios with Rudolf Stingel. The artist is interested in the popular imagination and objects associated with contemporary society, a fascination that is expressed through his open-minded use of materials. Fischer subverts the way we typically think about space and prompts us to question our traditional approaches towards objects. For example, he makes life-size chalets out of bread; portraits of people whose faces are covered with fruit; and compositions made of brioches and butterflies. Fischer’s world is multicolored and unpredictable, and he creates works in which the usual context of things is subverted to create new forms and meanings.
Mit Jai Inn (1960 Chiang Mai, Thailand, where he lives and works)
Mit Jai Inn studied at Silpakorn University, Bangkok (1982-1986) and at the Academy of Arts, Vienna (1987-1992). At the latter institution, he was an assistant to Franz West from 1986 to 1992. Mit Jai Inn is a co-founder of the Chiang Mai Social Installation Project (established in 1992 and still operative) and also works with The Land Foundation in Thailand. Embedded in Jai Inn’s multi-layered, colorful compositions and ongoing serial forms are nods to the histories of ‘Eastern’ and ‘Western’ painting, memories of a sacred-secular intimacy of color-form- function and site-specific installations dedicated to the nations, spaces, hosts or the viewers of his works. While the artist is less interested in general religious associations between his paintings and suspended prayer flags or rolled iconographic ceremonial paintings, he is inspired by and willfully inherits associations with their direct purpose: to create a merit-field for the makers and their publics; to be an invitation, an opening.
Andreas Reiter Raabe (1960 Grieskirchen, lives and works in Vienna)
Andreas Reiter Raabe studied philosophy and European ethnology at the University of Vienna, as well as painting at the University of Applied Arts in the same city. He examines and analyzes the process of painting using various techniques, photographic concepts, three-dimensional objects and interviews, as well as the image itself. In 1993, Reiter Raabe invited Franz West to a group-show and started interviewing the artist and publishing their discussions. From 1995 onwards, he exhibited in West’s shows and collaborated with him until West’s death in 2012. Reiter Raabe’s involvement in curating has been ongoing since the early 1990s, and he is one of the founders of Gesso Artspace, a Viennese artist project, where he has presented more than a dozen exhibitions since 2013. Reiter Raabe is also a member of the Executive Board of the Vienna Secession and has lectured at the USC Los Angeles, the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, The Royal Academy of Arts in London, and the University of Art and Design in Linz.
Anne Schneider (1965 Enns, lives and works in Vienna)
Anne Schneider is an Austrian artist who studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (1992– 96), in a master class with the Italian artist Michelangelo Pistoletto. Schneider works in a variety of media (painting, sculpture, and installation), in very experimental ways and with extremely simple materials (wax, concrete, fabric, jute). She focuses on actual and constructed spaces, which are often the product of intense physical effort. The works are also a constant extension of the body. West acquired several of Schneider’s works for his own collection, including the ftörperpendel (Body Pendulums).
Thomas Schütte (1954 Oldenburg, lives and works in Düsseldorf)
Thomas Schütte trained at the Academy in Düsseldorf between 1973 and 1981, where his teachers included Gerhard Richter, Fritz Schwegler and Benjamin Buchloh. Since his graduation, Schütte has been subverting traditional art historical genres through a wide-ranging body of work that includes sculptures, prints, installations, drawings, watercolors, and photographs. The artist will often take a familiar form of expression, such as figurative sculpture, and render it strange and disorientating by way of evocative and disturbing alterations. A key example of this approach being his treatment of the female nude in the Bronzefrauen series (Bronze Women, 1999-ongoing). In these sculptures, figurative shapes morph into abstract or mutant forms. Through his work, in which one can often detect a note of humor, Schütte dissects the human condition, offering critical perspectives on social, cultural and political issues as well as visually compelling meditations on memory, loss, and the difficulty of memorializing the past. Thomas Schütte was awarded the Kurt-Schwitters-Preis für Bildende Kunst der Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung in 2005 and the Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Biennale in 2007. That same year, he unveiled his Model for a Hotel, a sculpture for the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar Square in London.
Rirkrit Tiravanija (1961 Buenos Aires, lives and works in New York, Berlin, Chiang Mai)
Even though Rirkrit Tiravanija’s diverse artistic production eludes classification,he has accurately described it as ‘relational’: a body of work focused on real-time experience and exchange that breaks down the barriers between the object and the spectator while also questioning the art object as fetish and the sacredness of the gallery and museum display. Tiravanija’s work first came to public awareness in 1989 when a New York gallery showed Untitled Empty Parenthesis, which consisted of weekly renewed displays of the various stages of a green curry meal: a pedestal for ingredients, a pedestal for cooking curry on a burner, and a pedestal with waste products. Tiravanija has also described his work as: ‘comparable to reaching out, removing Marcel Duchamp’s urinal from its pedestal, reinstalling it back on the wall, and then, in an act of return to its original use, pissing into it.’ Tiravanija is a Thai artist who was born in Argentina but raised in Thailand, Ethiopia, and Canada, and who now lives between New York, Berlin, and Chiang Mai. His work carries strains of this nomadic existence, blending and re-combining different cultural contexts. Rather than insisting on a particular reality or truth, his work creates open-ended contexts that allow people to grapple with these questions themselves. The strength of Tiravanija’s work lies precisely in its ephemerality and the artful ways it escapes definition: he takes the material of the everyday and restages it, allowing the viewer a perspective, at once banal and deeply profound, about the fleeting nature of life itself.
Haegue Yang (1971 Seoul, lives and works in Berlin)
One of the most critically lauded artists of her generation, Haegue Yang’s alluring, sometimes confounding work typically takes the form of elaborate sculptures and installations. Combining industrial fabrication and traditional craftsmanship, Yang explores the affective power of materials in destabilizing the distinction between the modern and pre-modern. Her unique visual language extends across various media (from paper collage to staged theatre pieces and performative sculptures) and materials (Venetian blinds, clothing racks, synthetic straw, bells, and graph paper) that are torn, lacquered, woven, lit, and hung. With her diverse oeuvre, Yang adeptly avoids clear attributions. Her works demonstrate elements of Institutional Critique and are conceptual as well as rich in cultural and historical references, while simultaneously sensually complex and emotionally charged. With her Sonicwear pieces, which are made of tiny bells and are intended to be worn and activated by the audience, Yang is channeling the wry humor of Franz West and his Paßstücke (‘Adaptives’).
Franz West, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Mike Kelley, Urs Fischer, Mit Jai Inn, Andreas Reiter Raabe, Anne Schneider, Thomas Schütte, Rudolf Stingel, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Haegue Yang