02 June 2019

He is consid­ered one of the most impor­tant contemporary concept and perfor­mance artists. Now his room-filling installations are coming to the SCHIRN, creating a unique experience.

By Schirn Magazin

From June 7 until September 1, 2019 the Schirn is presenting new, expansive installations by John M Armleder, which are shown both in- and outside. His art combines coincidence and planning, high culture and everyday life, profundity and triviality to create an ambivalent and unique experience. Based on the formal repertoire of Modernism – Constructivism, Op-Art, Pop, gestural and abstract painting as well as design – he finds poetic and ironic commentaries on our current reality and the status of art.

The artist actively explores the respective exhibition space; many of his works are created directly in situ. He often uses set pieces from earlier works and combines a wide range of media and materials. For the exhibition Armleder is creating an installation in the freely accessible Rotunda of the Schirn. Twenty disco balls mounted at different heights are multiplied in its windows covered with mirror film.

Coincidence and playfulness are central to his art

Inside the Schirn, he will assemble further works and installations, including new “Pour Paintings”, wall paintings and sculptures such as an inverted double children’s slide that forms part of his “Furniture Sculptures”. From the very beginning of John M Armleder’s career, a playful and forthright approach, the inclusion of chance and of subversive and unplanned elements manifested themselves as the main characteristics of his interpretation of art. He presented his first exhibition in 1973 with the Fluxus group ECART (French for “Deviation”), which had been founded four years previously and for which he had written a manifesto.

John M Armleder, Divino, 2019, Detail, Courtesy David Kordansky Gallery LA, Foto: Julien Gremaud

Central concerns included the denial of the concrete, the determinable, and a predilection for the process-based approach. This fundamental attitude of the artist lives on to this day and is also reflected in the title of the Schirn exhibition “CA.CA.”. The coincidence of the result is also characteristic of his large-format “Pour Paintings”, made of poured paint combined with other, sometimes incompatible elements.

He recycles forms and combines fashion, music and design

Beginning in the 1990s Armleder’s formal vocabulary changed to become the very opposite of Fluxus: instead of “poor materials” the works were dominated by brilliantly colourful reflective surfaces with a glamorous air. The artist confronts heterogeneous elements – poured paintings with geometric forms and objets trouvés in the tradition of Marcel Duchamp with set pieces from fashion, music and design. This mixture of high and low, and the combination of forms familiar from art history with everyday objects is a method which Armleder uses again and again. Among his best-known works are the “Furniture Sculptures”, created from 1983, in which he combines geometric painting with found or used furniture and everyday objects, thereby expanding the classic picture format into the space.

John M Armleder, Let it Shine, Let it Shine, Let it Shine. It's Xmas again!, 2015, Schaufenster für La Rinascente, Courtesy Massimo De Carlo, Milan/London/Hong Kong, Foto: Marco Beck Peccoz

Consequently, his patterns extend across the whole wall in an all-over process or occupy the entire exhibition space. Areas of colour, stripes, rings and other geometric elements in Armleder’s works are familiar from Classic Modernism. He repeatedly cites art history – especially the abstract-geometric tradition and Conceptual Art. John M Armleder’s work is characterized by a recycling of forms with which he continuously questions the role of art in a constantly changing cultural system.

John Armleder, Divino, 2019, mixed media on canvas, 350 x 700 cm, detail, Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery LA, photo: Julien Gremaud