Installation view, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Löwenbräu Areal, Zurich, 2004
The Eva Presenhuber Gallery is delighted to announce the occasion of a special exhibition by Jean-Frédéric Schnyder. After a long period in which the artist focused largely on painting, he will display two series of photographic works: Zugerstrasse-Baarerstrasse, created in 1999-2000, and, for the first time, a new series of panoramas developed in 2003.
Born in Basel in 1945, Jean-Frédéric Schnyder now lives and works in Zug. While his earlier works were influenced by both the Pop Art and Concept Art movements, the artist’s path diverged radically from these artistic trends in the 1970s. It was with this departure that his work began to take on new and considerable significance.
Jean-Frédéric Schnyder was influenced by the artistic changes of the time and, conversely, was present on a stage that came to be central to the young generation of the late 60s and early 70s. His work was displayed in the 1969 exhibit When Attitudes Become Form at the Zurich Kunsthalle, curated by Harald Szeemann; in 1972, his works were displayed in Documenta V in Kassel; and in 1973, works appeared in the exhibition of paintings entitled Prospect 73 in Düsseldorf. All of the exhibitions explored the legacy of Minimal Art and Concept Art as a central theme.
In 1982, Schnyder began to focus definitively on the medium of painting. Emerging from this period is a body of work of immense heterogeneity, featuring various painting styles and production methods. Schnyder uses these styles as freely available expressions that serve to describe the world. In various respects, Schnyder’s contribution to the 1993 Venice Biennale exemplifies this oeuvre. He represented Switzerland with a series of small paintings. One hundred and nineteen oil paintings showed 119 views of Swiss highway segments. Schnyder painted by day and night, in rain and sunshine, winter and summer, in each case from bridges traversing the highway. His combination of impressionistic and expressionistic painting styles was, through this series, once more ironically disrupted. Ultimately, the serial nature of the works is not based only on their development process. Day by day, the artist completes one fragment of a larger mosaic. On a real walking tour, whose first leg began on 7 January, 1992, and whose final leg ended on 21 December, 1992, Schnyder traveled from St. Margrethen to Geneva. What emerged from this experience is a work demonstrating both an uncharacteristic and unfamiliar portrayal of Switzerland.
Such a walking tour can be seen as a metaphor for Schnyder’s artistic method of tackling and finishing a project, ultimately in order to break new ground. This notion of being in transit is reflected in the artistic concept of context displacement, a phenomenon of increasing interest for art theorists in the ‘80s. Pop culture does not fade out; rather, it is taken on by artists, imitated, transformed and as such placed within a new artistic context.
As he had done with the highway segments, Schnyder took on another section of a route, which in this case leads from Zug to Baar. A new period seemed to have begun; he chose the medium of photography. With the camera, he chronicled house upon house along this road. He photographed exclusively in dense fog in order to have a consistent, less shadow-forming light. The exposures were then digitally edited and joined together on a reel. Thus emerged a 14.5 meter-long C-print. Zugerstrasse-Baarerstrasse is a work of extraordinary density, which transforms ordinary outlooks into a novel, poetic and fantastic entity.
The 2003 landscape-formatted C-prints are classic panoramic exposures of landscapes and interiors; with these, Schnyder integrated diverse subjects such as Alpine flowers, cigarette boxes, and mirrors. These were photographed together with every panoramic sequence such that their light ratios were influenced by the different corners of the afterimage cuts. As he often does with his oil paintings, the artist covered a great distance for such subjects as backdrops and flowers. For example, he traveled between April and September several times to Engadin and within Switzerland in order to photograph the flowers in the right weather. The artistic concept of context displacement is very evidently illustrated in these new works: in the assemblage, one finds discarded cigarette boxes among Alpine Carline thistles. Irony emerges on its own. Additionally, context displacement is demonstrated on another level: Schnyder is a skilled photographer, and through these works, transfers his own past into an artistic context.
As a painter, Schnyder utilizes various styles; in the same way, the two photographic series are to be understood neither as a new beginning in a novel medium, nor as a return to roots; rather, they should be understood as components of a spectrum. The cloth displayed on a white foundation in the main showroom attests to Schnyder’s affinity for painting. It was sewn together from color-soaked cleaning rags and preserved by Schnyder over the last twenty years. What arises is a work that has to a certain extent created itself. It temporally spans the artist’s entire oeuvre and accompanies, not insignificantly, his photographic works.