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THE VOID

GREGORY CREWDSON – ISA GENZKEN – CHRIS JORDAN

 

February 9 – March 23, 2019

Dark streets and lonely houses, hardly anyone on the move. The literally “eerie” pictures of the American photographer Gregory Crewdson (born 1962) from the series “Beneath the Roses” could have been taken from an old Hitchcock film in the best Hollywood manner. Here, the places and scenes also become mirrors of the soul – and an oppressively sensed emptiness of existence. A house as the home of a searching, lonely soul, mysterious and oppressive: Crewdson stages his large-format images with the greatest cinematic effort and lets abysses shimmer through everyday facades and their delicately illuminated windows. What happens inside these houses? Are well-known corpses produced here, always lying dormant everywhere in the cellar? Crewdson's father was a psychotherapist. The artist was familiar with reading things that surround people as an expression of their inner being, immersing himself in the depths of the soul and making subconscious processes visible early on. Beyond the conciliatory surfaces, his pictures function as perfectly staged metaphors for fears and longings.

Melancholy – or in medical terms, depression – has always been associated with the canon of existence and sensibility of the artistic. Creativity, the dialectic of suffering and creation, which culminates in the myth of genius, feeds from it and the doubt about the meaningfulness of one's own actions and being. Since Dürer’s “Melancholia”, it has been known that she is one of the artist’s best friends, not infrequently his or her alter ego. From the romanticism of the lonely man in Caspar David Friedrich to the encapsulated modern city dwellers in Eduard Manet to the disillusionment of the American Dream in Edward Hopper: Often enough, the stylization of the productive cliché suppresses a fatal proximity to the clinical picture of illness. Ancient medicine had already clearly diagnosed its anatomical findings: black bile.

Anyone consuming media battles for spectacular celebrity suicides under a spell of loneliness and intoxication, depression and dependence can only guess how widespread the phenomenon is in all social classes to this day. Anyone who examines his or her personal environment suspects that the “sickness to death” is perhaps more widespread than ever. Nevertheless, depressive suffering is still stigmatized - or mythically stylized. But what could a contemporary approach to the subject look like? Whether ascribed to black bile or transfigured as black dogs, as Winston Churchill called his depressions: The darkness of the soul is the subject of the Salon Berlin of the Museum Frieder Burda’s current exhibition. In addition to works by Gregory Crewdson from the collection, it also presents works by the Berlin artist Isa Genzken (born 1948), also from its collection. At the same time, this exhibition project also questions the relationship between the traditional artistic topos and social reality.

Isa Genzken also uses Horror Vacui as an image motif. Her work always plays with questions of (in)stability, a threatening lack of stability, a lurking emptiness. Concrete as a material is hermetic, the view out of the window leads nowhere, the rose blossoms – and, emerging from an aluminium pedestal – simultaneously freezes in the emotional moment forever. The rose in particular thus becomes a fragile mirror of the artist herself – after all, she was born in 1948 as “Hanne-Rose Genzken”. Oversized flowers – symbols of love and affection – have had a consistent presence in her work like a red thread for 25 years. Manifestations of the simple, the poetic, the human – but also of the needy.

The window motif is no less present; Genzken has been working on it for many years. It consists of two cast concrete parts and is unglazed. Isa Genzken herself said: “Every person needs at least one window” as an opening to light, as a connection to the outside world. And yet the window motif also reflects contradictions of the soul: Everyone looks at the world with what they carry within them. The window as a motif thus stands for a reflection of one’s own existence and experience. At the same time, the emptiness into which one may look is also a space of possibilities from which something new can emerge or significant be created. Because emptiness is the sister of creativity.

As a further position, the American photographer and environmental activist Chris Jordan (born 1963) closes the circle. He captures melancholic moments in a nature void of people, which is threatened by humanity even when it is not present. In addition, he has captured a primeval forest landscape in Bohemia in large-format photographs. Thus each individual tree, in all its individuality, faces the viewer like a living creature, like a mirror of its own self, and raises silent accusations as an expression of its endangerment. Behind each trunk lurks supposed death, decay and emptiness – and at the same time, their sublimity and imperishability captivate. A mixture of sadness, beauty and reverence speaks from the pictures – and simultaneously a hard reality: A fragile ecosystem has long been in danger of falling out of balance.

The artistic director of the Salon Berlin, Patricia Kamp, on the project: “The works exhibited by Gregory Crewdson, Isa Genzken and Chris Jordan revolve in a variety of ways around emptiness and not least around the theme of humanity. The works have the ability to activate this charged nothingness in the viewer’s mind – in order to feel part of a larger whole when viewing and experiencing art. Whatever the shape of emptiness is, its image has the power to draw the viewer into it, to absorb its whole essence and to transform it from within”.

The project “Talk!” by the photographer Tom Wagner – together with “Freunde fürs Leben”

The Void is the latest in a series of exhibitions and workshops at Salon Berlin dedicated to the curatorial task of seeking how artistic forms of expression can contribute to social, political and ecological debates. The exhibition will therefore include a panel discussion at the beginning of March and a presentation of works from the context of the “Talk!” project. The project was initiated by the photographer Tom Wagner and “Freunde fürs Leben”, an association that aims to use creative projects to shed light on the issues of depression and suicide. The founders of the association, Diana Doko and Gerald Schömbs, were awarded the Federal Cross of Merit last year for their commitment.

It is an important step for “Talk!”, because the aim of the initiative is to put depression and suicide on the German Federal Government’s health policy agenda. After all, there are still no national information campaigns on the subject of depression or suicide, even though in Germany more people die from suicide every year than from traffic accidents, alcohol abuse, AIDS and robberies combined. The photographer Tom Wagner portrayed contemporary artists and then asked them to design their portraits and reveal the part of their personality that is often difficult to talk about. Jeppe Hein, Jaybo Monk, Eckart Hahn, Uli Aigner, Melissa Steckbauer, Sarah Lüdemann, Dan Harms, Pola Brändle and numerous other artists have already worked on their portrait.

 

MUSEUM FRIEDER BURDA | Salon Berlin

Thursday to Saturday 12noon - 6pm 
and by appointment via salon@museum-frieder-burda.de
T +49 30 240 47 404
salon(at)museum-frieder-burda.de
www.museum-frieder-burda.de 

Free admission
Free guided tours during opening hours

 

 

 

 

 

Gregory Crewdson, Untitled (Summer Rain), ‘Beneath the Roses’, 2004, digitaler Pigmentdruck. Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden © Gregory Crewdson Courtesy Gagosian