From Claude Monet to Roni Horn, from Piet Mondrian to Barnett Newman, or from Gerhard Richter to Tacita Dean – for all of them, investigating nature and its varied perception plays a major role. Moving from one room to the next, we notice that Nature and Abstraction could equally well be called Clouds and Surface or Color and Light. Its own exhibition room has been dedicated to a group of works by Brice Marden from the Daros Collection
Presented for the first time at the museum are the newly acquired works by the British artist Tacita Dean, Cúmulo (2016), and by the Brazilian artist Lucas Arruda, Untitled (from the Series Deserto-Modelo), 2015-2018. With her art, Dean repeatedly aims at capturing the fleeting quality of things and phenomena in nature, and of movement and light. Since the beginning of her career she has produced—parallel to her outstanding film work and alongside small-format drawings on paper—large, in part monumental, blackboard drawings. Her chalk drawings look like cinematographic stills. Cúmulo depicts an atmospheric landscape of piled cumulus clouds that seem to float away across the blackboard. Interestingly, faced with the black-and-white cloud spectacle, we don’t miss colour—perhaps thanks to the pronounced wealth of detail? Using the medium of chalk, the artist succeeds in capturing the incessant transformability and volatility of the sky. Hence, the picture treads a fascinating, fine line between unending variability and wistful timelessness.
The small-format paintings by Brazilian artist Lucas Arruda (b. 1983) feature atmospheric landscapes. Yet they are often identifiable as such due solely to a suggested distant horizon. The artist is not concerned with the recognisability of an existing setting, explaining: ‘It’s the idea of a landscape rather than a real place.’ Arruda is interested in the rendering of light and in the materiality and physicality of colour generated by his thick application of paint. Thus, what initially seem to be classic landscape paintings become almost abstract light and colour studies. The paintings featured here are part of an extensive group of works entitled Deserto-Modelo. In this presentation they are complemented by a projection of hand painted slides.
In connection with the public art project which the Foundation is showing from June 30 to July 29 in Zürich Main station, a room in the museum is devoted to a display of further works by the Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto. The early works Colonia (1988) and paff puff and the eternal infinite (1998) are supplemented by Altar for a plant (2017), a work from the permanent collection, which was specially devised for the pavilion in the Berower Park.
The central exhibition room of this year’s summer presentation of the collection is dedicated to the American artist Brice Marden (b. 1938). The exceptionally clear and seemingly simple paintings by American artist Brice Marden are deeply influenced by his personal interests and fascination with nature, light, and colour. The artist once remarked: ‘I believe there are highly emotional paintings not to be admired for any technical or intellectual reason but to be felt.’
The images exhibited here demonstrate in an exemplary manner the subtle development of Marden’s work from the late 1960s to the present. From his reductive early pictures dominated by grey tones—including the painting Long Gulf (1971), which reflects the artist’s view of the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico—his artistic path leads to newer, poetic works and exploration of freer forms, as in The Muses (1991–93), as well as his most recently produced painting, Winsor + Newton, from 2016–17.
Marden was invited to design new glass panes for the apse of the Basel Minster in 1978. The commission led him to a new approach of exploring the meaning and reproduction of light in his works. The artist spent seven years working on the project, which, although it was never realized, inspired a spiritual engagement with new pictorial solutions and materials. This investigation expanded his formal language noticeably: the five panels of the frieze-like Second Window Painting are no longer rhythmized by verticals and horizontals alone, as previously had been the case in Marden’s oeuvre, but also geometrically by diagonal lines.
The works by Brice Marden shown in this room are on loan from the Daros Collection, Zurich.
Fans of the Beyeler Collection’s highlights will not be disappointed by this summer’s presentation. Right at the start of the exhibition Piet Mondrian encounters Wassily Kandinsky. The Fondation Beyeler owns a group of works by Mondrian that reveals key stages in the development of his pictorial language from the rendering of nature to abstraction. Mondrian’s Cubist phase, too, was an important step on his path to abstraction. On display is moreover the significant work by Max Ernst, Fleurs de neige (1929), which Ernst painted while living in Paris, during which time he played a major role in shaping Surrealism. Employing unusual artistic techniques—grattage, frottage, and a painter’s comb—Ernst brought wondrous flowers, appearing like crystalline phenomena in an imagined cosmos, to life on the dark hills. Claude Monet’s Le bassin aux nymphéas (around 1917–1920), which is iconic for the museum, appears in a new light when juxtaposed to Olafur Eliasson’s Polar Fall Fade (2013).
On the lower level of the museum works by Ellsworth Kelly from the years 1961–2002 meet with the stabile 4 Planes in Space (c. 1955) by Alexander Calder. Both artists shared a long-lasting friendship, since they first met in Paris in 1952. Whereas Kelly, only 29 at the time, stood at the beginning of his artistic career, Calder, at 54, had long since been regarded as an eminent artist. To Kelly, the friendship with Calder was artistically inspiring and of great importance.
Works by Jenny Holzer, Tino Sehgal, and Ernesto Neto are featured in the garden of the Fondation Beyeler, in the company of Alexander Calder’s The Tree (1966).
The exhibition “Beyeler Collection / Nature + Abstraction” was curated by Theodora Vischer, Senior
Curator Fondation Beyeler.
Press images: are available at www.fondationbeyeler.ch/en/media/press-images
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