20th February — 12th April 2019
Through the Alps takes as its structure a series of Rudolf Stingel’s silver pattern paintings, each a different adoption of a decorative damask or carpet. Occupying the gallery to form an ornate reliquary, the paintings surround a collection of Franz West’s design objects, adaptives, and papier-mâché sculptures. Within the confines of the highly decorative, referential and abstracted paintings these sculptures and assemblages embody fully West’s belief that “it doesn’t matter what the art looks like but how it’s used.” Electric lamps, which function as lamps, are joined by a bookcase that rejects its role as storage and becomes a pedestal, as well as a sculpture that invites appropriation as a bench.
While they are joined in popular imagination by Stingel’s stately portrait of his friend and colleague, West and Stingel are at first blush a disparate alliance. Known for his frenetic, inviting energy as well as a sense of whimsy and the sensual, West’s works seem to share little in common with the cooler process driven exploration of space and paintingness that defines Stingel’s practice. However, the two were paired by more than a deep friendship sprung from a similar upbringing in northern Europe. Both artists’ work exhibit a strong interest in invited participation and performance, asking the gallery visitor to step directly into the artwork itself, activating and disrupting at the same time.
The performance driven aspect of each artist’s practices has been well documented. Through the Alps instead focuses on design, ornamentation and decoration in the artists’ oeuvres. Stingel’s works function as abstract paintings, but also as a play on the high low fascination that has gripped art production from Pop till now; making plebian and quotidian products that are traditionally endowed with enormous craft, aesthetic, and social worth only more recently becoming simple decorative motifs.