Installation view, All In One, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Rämistrasse, Zurich, 2020
Doug Aitken (born 1968 in Redondo Beach, CA, US) has developed a multimedia oeuvre that both studies and leads into new art forms. His work spans a wide array of mediums, integrating film, sound, photography, sculpture, performance, happenings, and site-specific installations. He creates immersive multimedia landscapes and disrupts the conventions of the contemporary art world.
Jean-Marie Appriou’s (born 1986 in Brest, FR) sculptures evoke archaic forms and are inspired by contemporary, but also mythological and futuristic worlds. His works are often crafted from the very modern material of aluminum, the design possibilities of which the artist constantly expands upon through experimentation and in combination with other metals. By alluding to familiar forms, be they animal or human, and developing his unique, almost alchemical approach to his source material, Appriou has created his very own mythology.
Walead Beshty’s (born 1976 in London, UK) artistic work encompasses a wide range of media such as photography, sculpture, installation, prints, drawing, and collage. Beshty’s works are developed in series, which, over the years, evolve into comprehensive work complexes. Beshty explores how the art system influences art production and how resulting works can shape this. His work is based on an awareness of the interactions between the social context and the social conditions: Materials, production conditions, studio, and exhibition spaces, transport systems, institutions and the environment of education, criticism, the public, collectors, the art market, etc.—all these are the basis of his work. They help determine how a work of art is created, presented, and ultimately perceived.
Lucas Blalock (born 1978 in Asheville, NC, US) makes darkly comic photographs that probe discomfiting corners of the psyche while making a bawdy mess of staid photographic norms. His pictures are purposely awkward, ham-fisted, and jury-rigged. They are constructed with software that normally fades into the background, but which he thrusts center stage. Anyone with a rudimentary working knowledge of Photoshop can understand the methods Blalock employs—a jittery fuzz of clone stamping here, an irregular bit of masking there. Indeed, these are not the tricks he has up his sleeve. And this feeling that we can see the gears of the image turning is part of Blalock’s program.
Martin Boyce’s (born 1967 in Hamilton, UK) work has a dark, pensively poetic undertone that augurs the end of an era. And not just the end of the 20th-century avant-garde, whose dreams and triumphs still echo in our present, but also the end of our very own time. Where the spirit of “form follows function” can be said to blow through his sculptures, drawings, and photographs, quiescent allusions to nature, poetry, and film noir are like shadows lingering over them. A sense of transience and abandonment inhabits Boyce’s work, giving it a romantic touch.
Joe Bradley’s (born 1975 in Kittery, ME, US) versatile painterly oeuvre has suggested allusions to Abstract Expressionism, to Philip Guston, or to Minimal Art, all with a very contemporarily distant, not entirely tangible twist that nonchalantly oscillates between irony and melancholy. Recently, however, Bradley has developed a new visual language that is entirely his own. Only in the past two years has the artist sparked a dialogue between his canvases and his works on paper—as if they were nodding to each other.
Angela Bulloch’s (born 1966 in Rainy River, ON, CA) work spans many forms, all of which manifest a fascination with systems, patterns and rules, and the creative territory between mathematics and aesthetics. A member of the Young British Artists, Bulloch consistently blurs boundaries between the perceived digital and analog, between virtuality and reality.
In his sculptures and collages, Valentin Carron (born 1977 in Martigny, CH) imitates traditional handicrafts and unknown artworks, as well as stereotypical modern and everyday forms. By appropriating these objects and styles, he questions originality, authenticity, and identity in the globalized world. He reformulates traditional handicrafts, mainly from his Swiss homeland, by substituting natural materials like wood for synthetic materials; conversely, he commissions well-trained craftsmen to create precious works imitating cheap industrial articles.
Verne Dawson’s (born 1961 in Meridianville, AL, US) approach to painting is that of an anthropologist studying ancient concepts of time and space, how they have affected humankind throughout its social and technical evolution, and in what way they are still present in our contemporary, everyday culture. He bridges the gap between past and present by dealing with astronomy, numerology, and myth, as the ideas and stories behind these fields continue to impact the way we perceive and experience life.
In a variety of media, including performance, drawings, photography, video, and sound pieces, Trisha Donnelly (born 1974 in San Francisco, CA, US) explores the relationship between the allure of occult experience and the material gestures, ciphers, and icons through which it is conjured. Contrary to much current art which draws on the legacy of psychedelic culture, Donnelly rarely relies on direct historical references: she never uses album covers, rare documents, or the paraphernalia associated with the cults of excess of the late 1960s—although the spirit of that age is a tangible presence in her art.
Since the 1980s, Carroll Dunham (born 1949 in New Haven, CT, US) has developed his visual style while creating a significant oeuvre encompassing painting, drawing, print, and sculpture. Minimalist at the outset, his abstract but organic forms became increasingly concrete, depicting series of recurrent figures. For a time, Dunham was principally preoccupied with the motif of bathers and the lush landscapes surrounding them, as well as with single trees. The personages depicted sustained several changes but always stemmed from precursory forms in his work.
Matias Faldbakken (born 1973 in Hobro, DK) often uses industrial materials and heavy-duty objects in his works, which he then manipulates or even partially destroys. By negating the functionality of these items and placing them within an art context, Faldbakken explores the tipping-over moment in which readymade and industrialized materials become recognized as art.
Concerned with the intimacy of time, the illustration of place, and exploration of mortality, Sam Falls (born 1984 in San Diego, CA, US) has created his own formal language by intertwining photography’s core parameters of time and exposure with nature and her elements. Working largely outdoors with vernacular materials and nature as a site-specific subject, Falls abandons mechanical reproduction in favor of a more symbiotic relationship between subject and object. In doing so, he bridges the gap between photography, sculpture, and painting, as well as the divide between artist, object, and viewer.
Peter Fischli (born 1952 in Zurich, CH) and David Weiss (born 1946 in Zurich, CH; died 2012 in Zurich, CH) began collaborating in 1979 and created a significant body of work, which combined, rearranged, and even manipulated their daily experiences into something new and unexpected. Employing various media, including unfired clay, rubber, photography, and video, Fischli Weiss managed to playfully fuse the two ends of high and low art.
Liam Gillick (born 1964 in Aylesbury, UK) is known for work that deploys multiple forms to expose the new political control systems that emerged at the beginning of the 1990s. Gillick’s work exposes the dysfunctional aspects of a modernist legacy in terms of abstraction and architecture when framed within a globalized, neo-liberal consensus. His work extends into structural rethinking of the exhibition as a form. Over the last twenty-five years, Gillick has extended his practice into experimental venues and collaborative projects with artists including Philippe Parreno, Lawrence Weiner, Louise Lawler, and the band New Order.
John Giorno (born 1936 in New York, NY, US; died 2019 in New York, NY, US) is remembered for his remarkable spirit and craft, which expanded, transcended, and challenged the borders of different art forms. No other artist has woven poetry, visual art, sound performance, and dance as succinctly as Giorno did, while radically questioning their boundaries and interdependencies. In his Poem Paintings, Giorno transformed phrases originally found in his poems into bold, visual works. Explosive lines like “SPACE FORGETS YOU” provoke both identification and further contemplation.
Douglas Gordon (born 1966 in Glasgow, UK) is known for his interest in cinema and images taken from collective memory and everyday culture. His work encompasses film, photograph, performance, sculptural installation, and conceptual text. One of the most influential video artists working today, Gordon lays bare fundamental patterns of perception through his analysis and reconstruction of images from contemporary culture.
Mark Handforth’s (born 1969 in Hong Kong, CN) work is centered around the sculptural vocabulary of urban areas and familiar elements of day-to-day life (traffic signs, streetlamps, motor scooters, truck wheels, hydrants, neon tubes, or candles). He adapts them by either remodeling them or by replicating them in an often considerably larger scale—which, in many cases, creates uncertainty as to whether the pieces are ready-mades or not. This is irrelevant: Handforth does not pursue any documentary interests; rather than wanting to reproduce reality, he arranges familiar everyday elements in such a way that they create new points of reference.
Geographical references are an inherent part of Candida Höfer’s (born 1944 in Eberswalde, DE) extensive œuvre. For more than forty years, the artist has photographed the interiors of buildings, most accessible to the public, at times private ones as well, that are readily identifiable. Among them are museums, libraries, foyers, concert halls, bank archives, stages, and train station waiting rooms. Höfer’s interest is not in mere documentation; what drives her work is the differentiation of complex image subjects, the issue of light, and how spaces and architecture influence people.
Alex Hubbard (born 1975 in Toledo, OR, US) is a painter and video artist. He weaves together both fields by using the same approach in each medium and thereby rethinks video, painting, and their connections. In his paintings, Hubbard uses the volatile, fast-drying materials of urethane, resin, and fiberglass. Once applied to the surface, these materials cannot be changed. Therefore, his paintings—like the videos—always have the potential to unmoor themselves from their original plan. This gives the paintings a lot of space for unpredictabilities to take place during the process. This genesis, which leaves its traces in both the videos and paintings, creates the sometimes absurd, sometimes funny, and sometimes dramatic attraction of Hubbard’s works.
Shara Hughes (born 1981 in Atlanta, GA, US) refers to her paintings and drawings as psychological or invented landscapes, a term that derives from her working process and describes the way her paintings are created only in the very moment of painting. Hughes states that during painting, her works are created purely from the inside; this inside, however, is strongly informed by a deep knowledge of art history as well as the work of contemporary peers, as her frenetic colors and vibrant brushstroke, encompassing everything from monochromatic fields to harsh lines and dots, show. Fin de siècle styles, such as Fauvism, Art Nouveau, or German Expressionism, appear in her work alongside traces of contemporary painters such as Carroll Dunham, Sanya Kantarovsky, or David Hockney.
Wyatt Kahn’s (born 1983 in New York, NY, US) most recent body of work is, weirdly if paradoxically, as tough as it is vulnerable. Working with sheets of lead, oil stick, and shaped stretchers, Kahn constructs what can be considered, for lack of a better term, “specific objects.” Neither painting nor sculpture, in the strict sense of the art forms, they are both, and more. The artist’s three-dimensional wall works draw on a formal figurative reference, which becomes so abstracted as to take on an obscure semiotic or linguistic complexion. Kahn also considers these “signs” flattened characters based on people from his immediate milieu.
Beginning in the 1990s, Karen Kilimnik (born 1955 in Philadelphia, PA, US) has created a large oeuvre of paintings in which she deals with romantic mysteries, nature, Baroque, Rococo, fairy tales, and ballet. Artists such as 17th and 18th-century painters Henry Raeburn, George Stubbs, Hubert Robert, or François Boucher are frequent subjects to her reinterpretation. Kilimnik’s work appears rather traditional, except that it tells of a sense of tradition that the artist does not derive from her reflection on the art of the past but a critical imagination and preoccupation of classical themes such as nature, proportions, or optical illusions.
Andrew Lord (born 1950 in Rochdale, UK) is a ceramicist whose works bring together elements of paintings, sculptures, and crafts into a truce whose instability holds the viewer’s attention. Lord is part of a generation of artists, including Francesco Clemente, Julian Schnabel, Tony Cragg, and Sandro Chia, who distanced themselves from the characteristics of conceptualism and minimalism in favor of a more sensual narrative, thereby contributing to a generational shift in art in the 1980s.
In his sculptures, Justin Matherly (born 1972 in West Islip, NY, US) reinterprets both common and uncommon ancient forms. They are cast in concrete, which is poured into molds made of PVC tree-watering bags and other flexible material, and then roughly formed, to keep the traces of their production process. Matherly often presents his sculptures on pedestals constructed in part from medical supporting devices. His sculptures often allude to Nietzsche’s reading of the ancient, thus linking antiquity with modernity and bringing both to the present.
Adam Pendleton (born 1984 in Richmond, VA, US) is a conceptual artist known for his multi-disciplinary practice, which moves fluidly between painting, publishing, photographic collage, video, and performance. His work centers on an engagement with language, in both the figurative and literal senses, and the recontextualization of history through appropriated imagery to establish alternative interpretations of the present and, as the artist has explained, “a future dynamic where new historical narratives and meanings can exist.”
Tobias Pils’ (born 1971 in Linz, AT) paintings and graphic works are almost beyond interpretation. His painting process is characterized by planning, which then negates itself throughout its execution. As a result, representation flips into abstraction, figuration turns into composition. Pils’ work creates an unease of interpretation and challenges the notion of subjectivity in painting: His method follows intuition and is created in the context of the painter’s everyday.
Gerwald Rockenschaub (born 1952 in Linz, Austria) works within a formal repertoire which he has developed since the 1980s. He absorbs the everyday imagery and forms of logos, traffic signs, and pictograms, and produces sculptures, wall installations, and animations that render an aura of hyperrealist perfection. Partly influenced by his work as a techno DJ and composer of electronic music, Rockenschaub has created his own minimalism veering close to pop.
Over the last two decades, Torbjørn Rødland (born 1970 in Stavanger, NO) has created a body of images in which precision and critical rigor co-exist with an erotic, improvisational intensity that evades the reach of language. If the majority of contemporary image-making relies upon the mediated, distancing effects of digital technologies, Rødland’s ongoing use of analogue formats allows him to retain a measure of technical vulnerability, and to maintain a close connection to photography as a physical set of relationships between subject, light, film, and developing chemicals.
Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Tim Rollins born in 1955 in Pittsfield, ME, US; died in 2017 in New York, NY, US) is an artist collective that was founded by Tim Rollins in the early 1980s as a project for young people growing up in the South Bronx. The group created works using whatever they had to hand: bricks from torn-down buildings in the neighborhood, used school materials, textbooks, and notebooks. With a strong political motivation and shocked by conditions in the South Bronx, Rollins developed a unique learning environment that ultimately turned into the artist group the Kids of Survival.
Ugo Rondinone (born 1964 in Brunnen, CH, lives in New York, NY, US) has worked in a broad array of media since the 1980s, studying how common, sometimes banal forms of the everyday influence our way of perceiving our environment. Rondinone examines the link between the natural world and the human condition, mining the German Romantic movement as a primary source of reference, to create works wherein the commonplace of everyday occurrences and materials gives way to the sublimity of environmental phenomena.
Dieter Roth (born 1930 in Hanover, DE; died 1998 in Basel, CH) was a poet, graphic artist, and intermedia action and object artist. He is considered one of the most influential protagonists of art in the second half of the 20th century. His diverse oeuvre cannot be assigned to any conventional art category. Roth is well known for creating art objects made of organic material that had undergone a process of gradual change and decay, including hermetically sealed spices, mold, and even chocolate.
Jean-Frédéric Schnyder (born 1945 in Basel, CH) started out producing experimental objects in the late 1960s within the context of pop-art and has since gone on to create a broad oeuvre encompassing photographs, sculptures, paintings, objects, and installations. Being conceptually radically open in his artistic process, each new series of works he creates leads to a new experimental arrangement. Accordingly, Schnyder does not adhere to an overarching concept but meticulously focuses upon his subject, thereby coming up with ever new conceptions. The result of this unique openness is an oeuvre full of discontinuity.
Tschabalala Self (born 1990 in New York, NY, US) engages the overarching history of art-making by foregrounding the human body in her work. However, she refers to her painted characters as “avatars,” placing them in conversation with the digital age, even as her decidedly handmade process engages with tradition. Through technology and social media, we create virtual personas assembled from parts of ourselves we want to highlight; Self’s collaged characters may be seen as tactile extensions of that principle. These images emerge from personal exploration and an investigation of identity… The discordantly patterned fabrics combine into bodies that exaggerate curves and simplify features but ultimately resolve into figures with scale and presence. Self’s characters are typically nude and often in intimate settings, finding power rather than vulnerability in the exposure of the human form.
For more than 20 years, Steven Shearer (born 1968 in New Westminster, BC, CA) has worked with a wide range of materials such as print, sculpture, painting, drawing, and collaged found photography. Shearer has become increasingly well known for his adept portraits of figures painted within interior spaces. These portraits recall figures from past music subcultures and art historical painting and are rendered employing stylistic references from Fauvism and Symbolism to German Romantic Art. Reconfiguring Renaissance systems of perspective, he creates complex perspectival elements within the compositions that animate the viewer’s engagement with his paintings.
Josh Smith (born 1976 in Okinawa, JP) first gained attention in the early 2000s with a series of paintings of his name. Later, he began to unwind the name to create a series of sharp, colorful, and inscrutable abstract paintings. In recent years, the abstract paintings morphed into more pictorial works of singular subjects such as leaves, fish, skeletons, reapers, and palm trees. These subjects were partially chosen because they can be easily rendered by most anyone who cares to try. Therefore, the rendering of an image does not over-engage itself with any attempt towards pictorial virtuosity. For Smith, paintings are largely hosts for expression and experimentation.
The sculptor Oscar Tuazon (born 1975 in Seattle, WA, US) works with natural and industrial materials to create inventive objects, structures, and installations that can be used, occupied, or otherwise engaged by viewers. With a strong interest in and influence from architecture and minimalism, Tuazon turns both disciplines on their heads as he mangles, twists, combines, and connects steel, glass, and concrete as well as two-by-fours, tree trunks, and found objects. Tuazon produces objects and environments that draw out humanity’s relationship to buildings, interior and exterior spaces, and other objects and structures.
Franz West (born 1947 in Vienna, AT; died 2012 in Vienna, AT) was an internationally renowned sculptor who is considered one of the most influential artists of the past 50 years. He began to develop his works in the 1970s, centered around sculpture but also including drawing and collage. From the 1980s, West focused on art as something to use and communicate with by inventing the Passstücke—Adaptives. These are sculptures that can be touched and worn by the viewer, situating themselves somewhere in between a trap and a supporting device. West referred to them as incarnations of neurosis. In the following years, West produced a significant oeuvre of sculptures made of plaster and Papier-mâché, furniture, collages, and large-scale sculptures, which were often intended for public spaces.
Using his representational drawings as appropriated images, Michael Williams (born 1978 in Doylestown, PA, US) works through an analog process of drawing and collage to produce the source images for his Puzzle Paintings. The finished canvases present a discontinuous whole and summon the fragmented nature of our contemporary everyday. Whether Williams composes his paintings on canvas or screen, they are informed by art history and pop-cultural iconography, while nonetheless leaving space for unexpected events to occur during the process. As a result, they emanate a sometimes ironic, sometimes funny tension that is always seductive to the eye.
Since Sue Williams’ (born 1954 in Chicago Heights, IL, US) pictorial and sculptural work came into the public eye in the 1990s, it has undergone great changes. At the beginning of her career, Williams painted figures that were heavily influenced by comic-books and the pictorial language of advertisement. These paintings often showed domestic violence and explicit sexual content, which were mostly understood as a feminist critique of the patriarchal society and of war. Over the years, Williams sometimes rawly applied figurative scenes changed into more casual and extended compositions that took over large-scale canvases—until they grew into almost or total abstractions, into intertwined, swirling compositions consisting of body parts, orifices, and betokened organs.