beta pictoris gallery / Maus Contemporary is excited to participate in Art Brussels 2016 in the fair's newly created REDISCOVERY Section. We will be presenting 1970's and 80's work by German artist couple Barbara and Michael Leisgen, and paintings form the mid-1970's by Japanese artist Yoshishige Furukawa.
Barbara (1940) and Michael Leisgen (1944)
In the 1970s, the early works of Barbara & Michael Leisgen came as a counterpoint to conceptual photography, notably led by the typological school of Bernd & Hilla Becher in Düsseldorf. The different works illustrated hereunder are part of the Mimesis series, located in practices in operation since the early 1960s : the recording of a natural trace, research concerning the body and experiments related to Land Art. Barbara Leisgen’s silhouette is set, and leaves its fleeting trace in landscapes; the actions involve stretching out her arms to follow the contours of undulating countryside (the Paysage mimétique and Mimesis series), or to include the sun in an arc drawn by her arm while she is seen from behind in the center of the image. This is not merely imitating nature through its gestures; it describes, in the sense of tracing, and channels it as well. The (re)appropriation of the landscape is subjective, the silhouette of Barbara Leisgen being displayed in the landscape, inscribing its mark therein is ephemeral.
The pictures recall the visions of German Romanticism, notably the pictures of Caspar David Friedrich - his painting Morgenlicht being the figurative model for the Leisgen's Mime-sis works, although Friedrich's paradigm for considering nature as sacred is amended. One might see this as an anthropocentric romantic perspective such as the French Romantic view gave us. And yet, despite the sublime aspect of the photographed scenes and the preciousness of the prints which, beyond black and white, allow us to imagine a range of colors in the dazzling light, their images also refer back to the naivety and intrinsic nostalgia of souvenir photographs. The actual viewer is placed in a specular perception, being led to look at a woman posing in a natural expanse. By doing so, Barbara & Michael Leisgen are the precursors of current landscape approaches, relying simultaneously on a modernist and postmodernist viewpoint.
Barbara and Michael Leisgen's work has been included nationally and internationally in important exhibitions such as the 9th Biennale de Paris (1975); documenta 6 (1977); the 1985 exhibition “Lisible/Illisible” at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; and their 1987 and 2000 solo exhibitions at the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen, Germany.
Their work is discussed in numerous publications, including "Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968 - 2014" (2015) by Hilary Robinson, "Video Art Historicized: Traditions and Negotiations (Studies in Art Historiography)" by Malin Hedlin Hayden (2015), "Une introduction a l'art contemporain" by Philippe Coubetergues (2005), "Le Corps photographié" by Jean-Paul Blanchet, Dimitri Konstantinidis, ... (1996), "Le sentiment de paysage à la fin du XXème siècle" by Bernard Ceysson (1977), "Chroniques de l'Art Vivant" (1974), amidst others.
Their work been the subject of several publications - mostly in conjunction with exhibitions, such as "Les Ecritures du Soleil (Sonnenschriften)" (1978), "Die Ägyptische Wand" (1980), "Stellungsspiel" (1987), "De la beauté usée : Barbara et Michael Leisgen, [exposition, Paris, Maison européenne de la photographie, 10 septembre-9 novembre 1997]" (1997), "Kunst-Landschaft 1969-2000" (2000), "Zeitsprung" (2000), and "Positions" (2006).
Yoshishige Furukawa (b. 1921 in Fukuoka, Japan; d. 2008 in Kanagawa, Japan) earned his BFA in painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (now Tokyo University of the Arts) in 1943. He moved to the United States in 1963, and spent the subsequent decades between the United States and his native Japan. His work is in the collections of the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, the National Museum of Art in Osaka, the National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto, the Fukuoka Art Museum in Fukuoka, and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum, among others. In the United States, Furukawa’s work has been exhibited in institutions including the Albright-Knox Museum, and during his lifetime he received two grants from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.
Yoshishige Furukawa spent his career testing the limits of painting through a dedicated engagement with American art trends and unconventional materials. beta pictoris gallery is thrilled to present works from Furukawa’s Black Rubber Sheet series, a body of work which began and evolved through the 1970s.
A formal evolution is evident in a chronological examination of the works from Furukawa’s Black Rubber Sheet series. The earliest paintings are monochrome yet playful due to Furukawa’s use of rough-hewn geometric shapes, where edges of appliquéd canvas are allowed to fray, and grommets and the heads of nails run a wavering line across the composition. White paint unifies these elements while highlighting their forms; as time progresses, however, Furukawa rejects this whitewashing in order to showcase the inherent colors and textures of his materials. Raw canvas ripples across these picture planes, alongside sheets of rubber whose uneven surfaces, flaws, and rips are elevated into artistic gestures. The anthropomorphic aspect of these works becomes increasingly evident as the series progresses: peachy-pink canvas resembles skin; a crevice formed between grommet-pinched sheets of rubber appears like a corset.
Furukawa wrote in 1997 that, “I am most interested in developing a visual space with color and forms on a visual plane…When I am out walking, I may see a road, a construction site, working people, a tree, or the sky, and I try to incorporate the feeling of these visual physical things in my work. All of them have the power to cause me to ponder the relationship between the physical shape or material and mental reaction.” In the Black Rubber Sheet series, Furukawa’s experience of the 70s—New York City streets, Minimalist art—is distilled into these evocative works, which gesture at many things while remaining ambiguous, and a bit coy.