Aarau Kunsthaus contemporary art shows

A few days ago I ventured out of Zurich to check out a lovely little town with plenty of artistic activity for its size. Aarau, dating back to the 13th century, has a great Altstadt (old town center) with a unique architecture and feel. Most of the buildings, originating from the 16th century, have painted gables, rather than the more common painted facades one can see in cities like Lucerne, and Bern. Although I would have liked to stay longer, it started to rain suddenly, so I decided to spend the rest of the time I had left in the Modern Art Museum, which was not such a bad decision….

The main exhibition at the museum was a retrospective of St. Gallen conceptual artist, Alex Hanimann. The text work was beautifully installed, with much respect given to each piece, but unfortunately my German has not reached the level needed to understand the subtext and the puns. I was sorry that there was no English or French translation.

The second important exhibition was of the work of draftsman Sandra Boeschenstein. Her meticulous use of the felt-tip pen would impress even Rembrandt. In this exhibition, Sandra’s work combines pen work with stamping to create fantastical and dream-like (or nightmarish?) environments, some of which appear Esher-esque in their repetitive shapes and symbols that ultimately transform and alter over space and time.

mcesher01

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Sandra Boeschenstein
to sleep as a stuntman, to get up as an artist, 2007
Ink on paper, 59,4 x 42 cm
Courtesy Galerie & Edition Marlene Frei, Zurich

But Sandra’s work doesn’t stop there. There’s something much more mysterious and enigmatic going on. Interiors from worlds that she imagines, or from situations that are extremely uncomfortable, and yet inexplicably so, a tension exists from no concrete threats.

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Sandra Boeschenstein (dress)
How Far Behind the Eyes is it Bright, 2008
Ink on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm
Edition Marlene Frei, Zurich

In conjunction with the drawing exhibition is a documentary film about Sandra’s creative process, and the “making of” one of her large-scale wall drawings, an impressive feat considering the minuscule detail in her work.

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Sandra Boeschenstein
Video still from DVD Sandra Boeschenstein.
Six Cinematic Chapters by Edith Jud
Edition Marlene Frei, Zurich 2009

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Sandra Boeschenstein (camera)
How Far Behind the Eyes is it Bright, 2008
Ink on paper, 29,7 x 21 cm
Edition Marlene Frei, Zurich

And yet a third really great exhibition was “Vordemberge-Gildewart Art Grant: 12 Young Artistic Stances” featuring the work of 12 young German-speaking Swiss artists nominated by the museum, from among whom, during the course of the exhibition, one or a few will be awarded the prestigious Vordemberge-Gildewart Art Grant. The exhibition features one work from each: Patricia Bucher, Stefan Burger, Goran Gali/Gian-Reto Gredig, Tatjana Gerhard, Mira Hartmann, huber.huber, Karin Hueber, Fabian Marti, Christian Ratti, David Renggli, Kilian Rüthemann and Julia Steiner.

I was very amused to see huber.huber once again. Since first seeing their work at Katz Contemporary in February, they have become ubiquitous. They are currently on exhibit in Lugano, here, and mostly everywhere I go. Truth be told, their skulls sculpted in the fragile wings of butterflies are intriguing and engrossing. And Kilian’s work, which I discussed in an earlier post is also quite beguiling.

But here, I was most drawn and impressed by the interviews conducted by Goran Gali / Gian-Reto Gredig with photo-journalists covering some of the world’s most horrible conflicts. Each question was put to about 10 photo-journalists and was played on a separate monitor. There were four questions in all, thus to watch the entire piece would have been more than an hour and a half. I must admit that I selected to only watch two of the questions, but was extremely impressed by the courage and sincerity of these individuals. Would they put their cameras down and help someone in need? The only one who was completely unhesitant in the positive was a woman, the only woman in fact. The others were more complicated in their answers, trying to explain the difference between the role of a photo-journalist and aid personnel and the importance of not getting involved in the conflicts, but only documenting them, yet for most the final conclusion was that they would also choose to help if absolutely mandatory. This was an interesting gender difference of which I took immediate note.

The video interviews were accompanied by a few large-scale portraits of some of the photo-journalists. This ambitious project is not only of great artistic merit, but also important as a document of the many unrecognized heroes bringing us the information that we so often don’t even bother to read.

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Goran Galić/Gian-Reto Gredig
Philip Blenkinsop/Noor (from the piece
Photographers in Conflict), 2006
Inkjet print on handmade paper, framed, 131 x 103 cm
©Galić/Gredig

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