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Most comprehensive one man exhibition to date of Belgian artist Kris Martin opens at Aargauer Kunsthaus
Kris Martin, T.Y.F.F.S.H., 2009. Hot air balloon, ventilators, Dimensions variable, Edition 1 + 1AP. Collection Mimi and Filiep Libeert, Courtesy Johann König, Berlin, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles. Exhibition view Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau, Photo: Dominic Büttner, Zurich.

AARAU.- The Aargauer Kunsthaus presents the most comprehensive one man exhibition to date of Belgian artist Kris Martin (b. 1972) in Europe. Titled Every Day of the Weak, the show assembles Kris Martin’s pivotal works of recent years, thus covering for the first time the entire range and diversity of his oeuvre. The exhibition was organized in cooperation with the Kunstmuseum Bonn and the kestnergesellschaft in Hannover.

In 2010, the anniversary exhibition Yesterday Will Be Better at the Aargauer Kunsthaus opened with Kris Martin’s large scale, clattering arrival/departure display. The current retrospective – the artist’s first - shows that the theme of time (and time travel), transience and finitude plays an important role throughout his oeuvre. Ranging from installation, sculpture, photography and drawing to writing and sound, his diverse art tends to convey intense experiences of life and death. This is particularly evident when Kris Martin examines his own mortality in a very direct way, reproducing, in Still Alive, his own skull as a death’s head and thereby anticipating his own death. He conducts an inquiry into the fleetingness and fragility of life with reference to himself, while at the same always addressing the viewer. That life and death, or beauty and terror, can sometimes be so close to one another is visualised by a work that consists of over 700 shiny grenade shells. These found objects from World War I were once engraved with floral designs by soldiers and kept as souvenirs. Originally instruments of destruction, Kris Martin piles them up like a gold treasure.

Kris Martin examines and questions cultural conditions surrounding us. In the process he makes reference to literary and art history and, by embedding Christian iconography, also raises questions about present-day possibilities of religion and spirituality. An impressive example of this is his work titled For Whom - a large church bell that even in motion does not produce any sound, for it is missing its clapper. Swinging, yet remaining mute, the sight of this Christian symbol of community is at once irritating and wonderfully liberating. In spite of the symbolism, as well as the melancholy and romanticism, inherent to them, Martin’s works are devoid of pathos, albeit often steeped in sceptical humour. His objects combine formal variety and sensuous materiality with conceptual rigour, playful elegance with cool purist concentration.

Less a creator than a collector and dissector, Kris Martin frequently uses – aside from objects that he has elaborately produced by others – found objects that already have a history inscribed into them. His central artistic strategy consists in lifting those found objects from their original context and, at the same time, removing with great precision and originality essential information from them. He thinks outside the box in working with them, in overlaying them, in shifting their scale, thus generating new readings. We, the viewers, are irritated and motivated to fill in the blanks with our own experiences, to take the fragment and complete it in our minds. Martin’s works take our imagination beyond a rationally interpreted, bounded world and address us in the transience and fragility of our own lives.

Kris Martin today occupies an important and distinct position in contemporary art. He became known for works such as his installation Mandi III, which was included in the 4th Berlin Biennale in 2006. Subsequently, in 2007, a selection of his works was shown at P.S.1 MoMA in New York. The exhibition in Aarau, Bonn and Hanover assembles a large number of major works and, in addition to that, includes a comprehensive catalogue produced in collaboration with the artist.

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