Arndt Art Agency (A3) is pleased to present acclaimed Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho's solo exhibition “Plastic Democracy” at Arndt Art Agency Berlin upon the occasion of Gallery Weekend Berlin 2018.
Nugroho is part of a new generation of Southeast Asian artists intent on forging a unique Indonesian visual language and avenue for expression, deeply rooted in themes derived from everyday life. As Lisa Catt, Assistant Curator, International Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia, furthers: “From the very outset, Nugroho understood that the movement and energy of everyday life — its histories and traditions, its comings and goings — were fundamental to both his process and ethos as an artist. The streets of his hometown Yogyakarta not only offered a site of free and creative expression, but also of communication and exchange. It was here, outside the confines of the gallery and studio, that Nugroho found the potential to present art and the inspiration to make art which felt new and relevant. His ventures into public space as a young, emerging artist forged the way for him to develop a practice that was true to his sense of community and to his passion and skill as an artist. As much as a set of formal constructs — those he lifted from the pages of his favourite comic books and punk music zines — a sociality and collectiveness informed his works, building itself into his practice, and giving rise to some of the most distinctive imagery in contemporary art today.”
Characterised by plurality and taking many forms, Nugroho’s multidisciplinary practice investigates universal issues such as globalisation, human existence, corruption, cultural value systems and race through a critical, yet simultaneously humorous and playful lens. His work is grounded in both local traditions and global popular culture. In particular, he has cited the influence of traditional batik and embroidery styles. There is of course also a powerful inspiration from contemporary street art, graffiti and comics. In this way, his punchy, vibrant graphic aesthetic is often utilised in public interventions in the form of community murals and large-scale embroideries that explore social culture. Nugroho’s unique ability to intertwine popular culture within the vernacular of contemporary art has elevated his practice to broad, international appeal.
Nugroho re-iterates this sentiment as he describes the central topic of his work as “modern life in urban areas”. The artist cites, “My work is very much informed by my background in street art and I have always worked a lot in public space and with the local community. Many of the figures in my work, for instance, are masked in some way. In Java, the mask is a very symbolic part of traditional culture, and the tradition of shadow theatre has been an important influence for me. By changing the heads of the figures I convey my interpretation; this is the picture I end up with.”
For his solo exhibition at Arndt Art Agency, the presentation will include a major site-specific installation in the form of a range of murals and a selection of characteristically vibrant large-scale manual embroideries and paintings. The works in the exhibition convey many recurring topics in the artist’s practice such as power structures, urban existence, freedom and truth exemplified in the following artwork titles “Nationalism v Nationalism”, “Make Humanism Great Again”, “Melihat Dengan Hati” (Seeing With the Heart), “Song of Whistleblower” and “Release Yourself to be Truth”. The sustained employment of visual motifs from his oeuvre to date such as cartoon-like, shrouded faces and figures are set against patterned decorative backdrops are also apparent in a range of key pieces. These visual environments in the works appear simultaneously at once as platforms for imagery to emerge from, but also engulf.
"Plastic Democracy' speaks about the elasticity and dynamism of the transitionary process toward democracy – plastic after all is flexible, malleable but it is also man-made, synthetic. Nugroho presents monochrome works reflecting on the perceived simplicity of democracy ‘on paper’, as a system. Black and white, right and wrong, true and false however in between black and white – black bleeds into white and white drips onto black in his canvases and embroideries to show democracy in Indonesia is far from simple. Eko reflects similarities in democracy globally, universally. Eko’s colour burst works, such as the 'Garden full of Blooming Democracy' series presents democracy as a sprawling garden – where politics, culture and religion grow alongside, in competition and entangle one another like climbing vines, wildflowers and weeds. Colours offset, clash and contrast; as diverse as international cultures and people. These colours are still contained in strong black lines, demonstrating the pressure of containment of so much diversity and difference in systems of democracy and questions if the strength of people without systems of democracy will ever be enough while we wait for these systems to stick."
Throughout Gallery Weekend Berlin, the artist will also stage a customised outdoor pop-up store by Eko Nugroho's art project DGTMB in front Arndt Art Agency’s premises in Fasanenstraße presenting a range of limited edition artist merchandise for sale.
About the artist
Born in 1977, Nugroho continues to live and work in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He participated at the 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale in 2013 and at the Lyon Biennal, Lyon, France in 2009. Nugroho has held solo exhibitions that include: On Site: Eko Nugroho/ Wayang Boccor, Asia Society, New York, USA (2017), WAYANG BOCOR, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC, USA (2017), LOT LOST, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia (2016), LANDSCAPE ANOMALY, Salihara Gallery, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015), WE ARE CONCERN ABOUT NOTHING, Arario Gallery, Seoul, Korea (2013), at the Singapore Tyler Print Institure, Singapore (2013) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, France (2012), at the Peking Fine Art, Beijing, China (2009), at the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland (2008) and at Artoteek, The Hague, The Netherlands (2005).
Significant group exhibition participations include: Honolulu Biennial, Shangri La, Museum of Islamic Art, Culture & Design, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA (2017), Luther und die Avant Garde, Old Prison Wittenberg; Berlin; Kassel, Germany (2017), IMAGINARIUM: to the End of the Earth, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2017), ARTJOG 9: Universal Influence, Jogja National Museum, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2016),) Landscape Anomaly, Salihara Art Center, Jakarta, Indonesia (2015), ROOTS. Indonesian Contemporary Art, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2016-15), Encounters, Art Basel Hong Kong, curated by Alexie Glass, Hong Kong (2015), Move on Asia, at the ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany (2013), RALLY: Contemporary Indonesian Art, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia (2012/2013), Fantasy Islands, at Espace Louis Vuitton Singapore (2012) and Something From Nothing, at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans (CACNO), New Orleans, USA (2008).
His works is held in major international collections such as: Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris, The Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore, Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon, Artnow, International A3 Collection, San Francisco, USA, Arario Collection, Cheonan, Korea, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, Australia, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, Asia Society Museum, New York, USA.