A Magnetic Promenade at PRAXES

Issue no3
June/July 2017
Homeland

PRAXES Center for Contemporary Art is a not-for-profit venue founded in Berlin in 2013, whose program is organized in a way that every six months two artists are presented simultaneously. The approach taken by the curators of PRAXES is based on digging into an artist's ‘production’ and making a critical selection of it, in mutual dialogue with the artists themselves. For the first half of this year works by both Chris Evans and Rimini Protokoll are shown in a series of parallel exhibitions.

The Cycle, focusing on Evans' work, is divided into four modules entitled Hat, Hat, Hat and Uniform. The titling takes cue from a set of songs composed together with the now Liverpool-based graphic designer Stuart Bailey for their improvised band when both were based in Amsterdam years back. The series dedicated to the works by Evans, plays with temporality, by offering a selection of pieces from different moments in his career. It is aimed at creating new juxtapositions and reflections among them.

Magnetic Promenade, 2006/2015, Airbrush painting on window glass. Installation view (photo: Albrecht Pische)

In Hat (31 Jan - 8 March 2015), the first of four exhibitions, a series of airbrush paintings is presented on the ground floor of the gallery. Connected by the same technique, the artworks exhibited are mostly the only material trace of larger projects, often based on mediations of relations between social classes, workers, companies and artists, aimed at revealing the hidden mechanisms behind the illusion of integrity and autonomy of cultural production.

To give an example, one of his most recent projects was presented at the 8th Liverpool Biennial in the form of a golden ring, realized by local jewellers on the basis of their interpretation of the Biennial's press release.

Double Trophy, 2008, Aqua resin, clay, gouache. Installation view (photo: Albrecht Pische)

The first piece at PRAXES, already visible from the outside, is a site-specific airbrushed painting, which covers the windows of the space. It relates to a fictional sculpture park, which Evans started to explore with Gemini Sculpture Park already in 2000. In 2003 he bought a plot of land in Estonia, in an industrial area near the city of Järvankandi with the purpose of creating a public sculpture park there. This area is dedicated to realize Radical Loyalty, an ongoing project based on an enquiry he made by asking corporation managers how they would identify ‘radical loyalty’. The collaboration with these representatives of the globalized liberal economy is supposed to become visible in a series of sculptures realized by former Soviet artists. The preparatory drawings for these sculptures, executed together with the corporate managers, are represented with the airbrush paintings Handfoot and Ananda (2006), and Magnetic Promenade (2006/15). The latter is depicted on the windows of the brutalist architecture building, where the art centre is located. It represents a powerful clenched fist standing on a smooth but disquieting ochre colored landscape, which soft colors are in contrast to a lose human body part; by positioning it in dialogue with the outside, it becomes an invitation "to take a stroll down the street" and imagine to be in Evans' fictional park. The same motif is dramatised further in Handfoot, where an arm and a leg are united as in an appendix to an alien body. The idea of Evans' sculpture park reminds of something in between a cartoon and a stylization of ideological symbols, which produces a cultural and an ideological clash.

Handfoot, 2006, Airbrush painting on paper; Anada, 2006, Airbrush painting on paper. Installation view (photo: Albrecht Pische)

Across the room, another couple of untitled airbrush paintings on aluminium represent a church and a smoke trail, two illustrations realized forThe Sky is not the limit, by Angie Keefer, presented at Liste (Basel), in 2009 with a special title used for the occasion: You Don't Have To Understand Everything We Do For Profit From It.

A reference to social class is explicitly present in the title of Militant Bourgeois, an Existentialist Retreat, originally presented at SMBA, Amsterdam in 2006. What is visible of it at PRAXES is a drawing of a black cabin, with an opening that shows an interior made of geometrical forms, and a nest of ladders coming out from the back or from the top of it. With Militant Bourgeois Evans proposes a studio cabin for a ‘Spartan’ artist’s retreat in the outskirts of Amsterdam, inspired by the 1974 novel Concrete Island by J. G. Ballard. The cabin was meant to contain a few pieces of furniture, like an iron wood-burning stove with the ten-ladder like chimneys, suggested by Dutch patron Jan Six, who wanted to represent the multiple choices an artist is faced with during a residency, ideally isolated from society. Jan Six inspired Evans to reflect upon the status of an artist in a contemporary city like Amsterdam at a time when art funding was still widely available. How would this could work nowadays, within a panorama where the shortage of resources is the reality and not only an ascetic experience?

Without Thinking I-III, 2010; Double Trophy, 2008. Installation view photo: Albrecht Pische


Without Thinking I-III, 2010; Double Trophy, 2008. Installation view photo: Albrecht Pische

Hat opens a cycle, which will disclose further perspectives on Chris Evans's oeuvre in the next months with Hat (12 March – 19 April), Hat (23 April – 13 June) and Uniform (31 January – 13 June).

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 3 — 2017