ST. LOUIS, MO.- The Contemporary presents an ambitious exhibition with John Armleder and Olivier Mosset, two of the most influential artists working today, and whose work remains under-recognized in the United States. This widely anticipated exhibitionthe inaugural show of the Contemporarys new curatorial teamintroduces the museums newest program of exhibitions, publications, and performances. The exhibition will be on view from May 9 to August 3, 2008.
Signaling its commitment to artist-centered exhibitions, the Contemporary will hand over its galleries to Armleder and Mosset. Jointly conceived by the artistswho have been close for more than twenty yearsthe exhibition represents neither a curated two-person show nor two independent solo exhibitions, but an active juxtaposition of parallel and opposite artistic approaches. Proposing a guiding metaphor of artworks that act as obstacles, and obstacles that act as artworks, the artists will present an installation specifically designed for the museums Main Galleries. Armleder will contribute new pour and pattern paintings, a site-specific fifty-five-foot wall-painting, and an installation of Mylar Christmas trees.
Mosset, in addition to a series of his infamous circle paintings from the 1960s and early 70s, will present a large-scale installation of several dozen Toblerones, large cardboard sculptures based on anti-tank structures used by the Swiss army.
John Armleder has produced thousands of sculptures, paintings, drawings, books, and staged performances, creating an art of impenetrable surfaces and too much information.
Inspired by the Warholian predict that omnipresence is a form of absence, the artist constructs an all-encompassing vocabulary that resists fixed identification. Collapsing categories, he allows pop culture to coexist with abstract formalism; he demands that sculpture align itself with interior design; and he elides the seductive and the trashy. His wallpaper works, drawings, furniture, and overwhelming mixed media installation of scaffolding, televisions, trees, plants, and stuffed animals create an intense proximity between art and decorative design, defying hierarchies and disrupting traditional distinctions between the unique and the generic.
Olivier Mosset, on the other hand, chooses to remain firmly committed to blank abstraction. His uncompromising aesthetic presents the viewer with nothing to look at, and therefore, with everything to consider. From his untitled circle paintings of 196674 (nine of which are shown here), his untitled series from 197277, in which he appropriated Daniel Burens striped canvases, to his most recent monochromes, Mosset continues to express the death, if not the inherent failure, of painting as a meaning-making gesture. Stripped of any identifiable con-tent, Mossets painting insists on its own autonomy and operates outside of consensus, expectations, or external authorities. His decelerated process presents a powerful political stance against our con-ventional notions of progress and insatiable hunger for the new. Indeed, slowing us down to the point of full-stop, his Toblerone sculpturescardboard copies of concrete anti-tank obstacles used by the Swiss armymerge the physical realities of war and abs-tract sculpture, while reminding us of Ad Reinhardts famous quip that sculpture is something you bump into when you back up to look at a painting.
One of the most urgent and relevant directions taken by conceptual art today is its struggle to remain potent within, and despite, late capitalisms omnivorous information economy. In a post-punk and post-Fordist landscape, faced with relentless information irculation and endless image-production, many contemporary artists search for ways to defy pre-determined spaces of production and reflection and instead open up spaces for independence and radicalism. In this information-saturated climate, John Armleder and Olivier Mosset find opposite escape routes. If Armleders gregarious pop ultimately offers a slippery surface of emptied, generic icons, and if Mossets unyielding economy is in fact an anti-authoritative act of limitless agency, these two practices transform affirmation into a form of refusal, and vice-versa. In the end, the work of Armleder and Mosset compromises our ability to distinguish yes from no.
John Armleder and Olivier Mosset is curated by Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis Chief Curator Anthony Huberman. An artist-made publication will accompany the exhibition and be published the summer of 2008.
John Armleder and Olivier Mosset is supported by Swiss Re; Pro Helvetia, Swiss Arts Council; and Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation. The publication is supported by Zane Bennett Contemporary Art, Santa Fe. Special thanks to Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zürich. General support for the Contemporarys exhibition program is generously provided by the Whitaker Foundation; William E. Weiss Foundation; Regional Arts Commission; Arts and Education Council; Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; Nancy Reynolds and Dwyer Brown; and members of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.