Death to Pigs is the first institutional retrospective of Canadian artist Ydessa Hendeles in Europe. Hendeles interweaves personal experience with narrated and interpreted elements. In her complex room installations, she places art, historical artifacts, photography and audiovisual media in myriad interrelationships with one another. Her compositions can be read as provocative, psychologically charged meditations on human nature.
Spread across both halls of Kunsthalle Wien at its Museumsquartier location, the exhibition draws on several of the artist’s main areas of work from the past decade, showcasing them in the form of a multi-layered narrative. The central work, Death to Pigs, is a multi-part installation that discusses stigmatization and escalating violence on a metaphorical level. The title references the infamous Manson Family murders of the summer of 1969, when the killers tagged their crime scenes with the words “Death to Pigs.” From her wooden sleep… is the title of another spatial installation: an arrangement of roughly 150 life-size vintage, wooden, dolls.
The installations come across as dense, overlapping layers of precisely researched cultural-historical contents and autobiographical references. Recent works are also on show as well.
Hendeles’ œuvre is closely linked to her own biography as the daughter of Holocaust survivors. In a world marked by expulsion, uprooting, and trauma, her work is as much about historical events as recent, global developments.
Ydessa Hendeles (*1948 in Marburg), lives and works in Toronto and New York. She studied at the University of Toronto, the New School of Art (Toronto), the Toronto Art Therapy Institute, and holds a PhD cum laude from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis of the University of Amsterdam. She taught art history at the New School of Art, and is an adjunct professor in the Department of Fine Art at the University of Toronto.
In 1980, she established The Ydessa Gallery, Toronto, and exclusively represented contemporary Canadian artists such as Rodney Graham, Ken Lum and Jeff Wall. In 1987, she launched the exhibition program of the Ydessa Hendeles Art Foundation in Toronto, and in 1988 opened Canada‘s first privately funded exhibition venue for contemporary art.
In October 2017, Hendeles was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Philipps-Universität Marburg.