We are very pleased to be able to present the German artist Peter Welz’s first solo show at our gallery in Vienna. Portrait #4 [AA Bronson] is a continuation of Welz’s exhibition series in which multimedia moving-image sculptures pay homage to formative figures in film and art history. After Francis Bacon, Curzio Malaparte, and Michelangelo Antonioni, Welz now addresses AA Bronson, the renowned founder of the artist collective General Idea and the New York Art Book Fair.
Peter Welz’s complex video installations explore the dynamic relationships between figure and space in a variety of ways. A trained sculptor, Welz places special demands on the moving image and questions the conventions of staging. In contrast to the usual presentation of lms, in dark projection rooms or on large screens, he treats video screens, projectors, and monitors like sculptures by placing them in the middle of the room. Viewers move between the projection surfaces on which the lm is being played. At times they walk behind the picture; at times they stand in front of it. They view it from an oblique, menacingly foreshortened angle or head-on from the perspective of the original camera. They become part of the cinematic image itself. They steer their bodies and their gazes not only through the space, but also through a sculpture and a moving image. The boundaries between work and viewer dissolve.
Peter Welz’s expansive moving-image sculptures are idiosyncratic, contemporary monuments to personalities who have fascinated and in uenced him. He sees them as a new form of portrait, conceived for various media and combining diverse techniques and creative elements. From lm, video, and photography to drawing, painting, and sculpture, from dance and performance to installation, Welz employs all the tools of our multimedia, cross-over art world. Nevertheless, his use of form is clear, precise, coherent, monolithic, and at times monumental. At its core is a person we see in a new light.
The first of these portraits—or better yet, the first of these moving-image sculptures with the character of a portrait—was created by Peter Welz for the Louvre in Paris in 2005. It was dedicated to the British painter Francis Bacon and was subsequently shown in dozens of group exhibitions worldwide. Portrait #1 [Final Unfinished Portrait Francis Bacon] encompasses all the essential elements of Welz’s cinematic-sculptural portrait series. At the heart of the multimedia work is a multipart video installation that was created in collaboration with the US-American dancer and choreographer William Forsythe. Forsythe moves in reaction to Bacon’s nal, un nished self-portrait. The camera films him from a variety of perspectives. Portrait #2 [Casa Malaparte] captures the atmosphere of the writer Curzio Malaparte’s former sanctuary on Capri. Embedded in the landscape, the architectural structure is staged as an isolated retreat. Portrait #3 [Antonioni and Vitti] deals with one of the most important filmmakers of our time, Michelangelo Antonioni: excerpts from his celebrated film The Red Desert with Monica Vitti are transferred to sculptural elements.
The new Portrait #4, on view at Crone Wien, is about the Canadian artist and curator AA Bronson, who enjoys cult status as cofounder of the artist collective General Idea. Bronson stands alone in an unde ned space. Two cameras revolve around him. When one of them captures him from the front, the other is at his back. Like planets, they orbit Bronson at their center. One occasionally hears footsteps and the whirring of the cameras. The two sequences are projected onto two monumental screens positioned at angles in the exhibition space. The cameras’ different perspectives are understood in relation to each other; they converge and interlock. The central staging of a single gure without narration or scenic embedding is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. Welz consciously follows this tradition, while developing his own aesthetic and methodical approach. Unlike Warhol’s actors, however, AA Bronson is not limited to looking at the lone camera. Bronson stands calmly, as if in the eye of a hurricane, undeterred by the ceaseless, circular movements of the recording devices.
Their perpetual cycle refers to the passage of time. Born in 1946, Bronson continues to be not only a keen observer but an active protagonist of the art scene. At an early age he began exploring alternative ways to live together and founded a community, a free school, and a newspaper of his own. In 1969 he joined forces with Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal to establish the artist collective General Idea. From the outset the queer collective challenged heteronormative conceptions of gender. They held beauty contests without genre boundaries, opened boutiques, or hosted talk shows. To this day General Idea is remembered above all for its ght against the rapidly spreading disease AIDS, which took the lives of Partz and Zontal in 1994. Since then Bronson has been active as a solo artist. He deals extensively with questions of queer identity, social mechanisms of exclusion, and spiritual practices. His own work as well as Welz’s portrait of this multifaceted artist speaks of the experience of old age but also the carefree nature of youth. As is often the case in Welz’s artistic practice, this video work is complemented by sculptural and photographic studies. Upon entering the gallery one is confronted with a very different kind of portrait. An intuitively drawn line graces Bronson’s left forearm. It is a kind of non-tattoo that has nothing intentional, no deeper meaning. Welz’s photograph depicts this arm as a body fragment; placed on a pedestal, a oor plan emerges from which the line extends upward in the form of a curved wall. Like the two screens in the exhibition space, this wall becomes the surface of a projection that shows Bronson distorting the line with his right hand and thus manipulating it. While the body in the main video work remains intact as an entity, the artist himself becomes increasingly fragmented. Collages address a prismatic splitting of form, exploring the gure, its body, and its identity in analytical fashion.