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FOMU Fotomuseum Antwerp opens Paul Kooiker's first major museum exhibition
Paul Kooiker, uit de serie Eggs and Rarities, 2018.

ANTWERP.- Untitled (nude) is the first major museum exhibition of Paul Kooiker’s (NL, °1964) work outside the Netherlands. This alternative retrospective, focused on “watching”, voyeurism and distance, draws the viewer into a confusing, destabilising creative and obsessive vacuum. A new work that was created specially for FOMU takes centre stage: Eggs and Rarities (2018). The exhibition is part of 'Antwerp Baroque 2018.Rubens inspires' and is supported bij the Mondriaan Fund.

Paul Kooiker (NL, °1964) is a man on a mission. He is not the conceptual artist who comes up with an idea and then executes it. Neither is he the artist who travels the world wanting to be surprised by what he finds there. He has spent three decades looking for a liberating intermediate where the impact of the image takes precedence and taboos are broken and in which he imposes nothing on himself, but rather allows himself to start from scratch.

As a general rule, Paul Kooiker’s work is about looking, voyeurism and distance. The viewer takes centre stage. Kooiker doesn’t come with a handbook clarifying the meaning of an image; you have to make do with the representation, with what has been photographed. You then find yourself drawn into a creative and obsessive vacuum which can be confusing and destabilizing. Kooiker raises questions, but rarely answers them, so it’s over to you. Go in with an open mind and trust your own judgement.

Eggs and Rarities (2018)
For Eggs and Rarities created specially for this exhibition, Paul Kooiker assembled images from his digital archive. While studying at the art academy he made an early, photographic ‘encyclopaedia of life’. Now thirty years on, he is attempting a more comprehensive version.

This ambitious but utopian project reads like a sampler of photographic genres: landscape, nude, still life, etc. To achieve this, Kooiker often uses clichés more reminiscent of the propaganda of tourist brochures or of religious and political rhetoric in the media. Here the various photographs of an egg also literally refer to the origin of things. All the images are printed in the same way and Kooiker opts for a clean-cut presentation in which everything is given equal value.

But Kooiker increasingly allows the personal to creep into the work. Intimate private photographs break through the seemingly objective approach so that public and private space spill over into each other. The result is one large work in which the complexity of things converge: the artist himself, the medium of photography, life and death.

Sunday (2011)
Paul Kooiker has spent years studying the history of the nude in art. Sunday occupies a special place in the various series Kooiker has made on the subject. For the first time he worked with a single model, sourced through an advertisement on the internet for a model agency for amateur photographers. He photographed the woman in her own garden one Sunday. As is often the case with Kooiker, the post-production phase was as important as the actual photo shoot.

The series is based on the extraordinary three-cornered relationship between artist, model and viewer. Here the observer looks over the photographer’s shoulder. The model – the observed – is anonymous and never turns to face the camera. So is this work about form, proportion, scale, colour and taste? Or could it be that in the current #MeToo era we can’t disassociate it from the necessary discussions about the objectivization of the female body?

One of these works was added to the FOMU collection in 2018. The other works are on loan from the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag.

Heaven (2012)
Four hundred and ninety-four Polaroids take us right to the heart of the artist’s engine room. All the photographs came from Kooiker’s analogue archive and date from the period 2000-2012. He used the Polaroid camera then as he uses his smartphone now. As each photograph was viewable immediately after it was taken, he could experiment at will. The photographs are often preliminary studies in which the photographer moves around his model looking for the right angle, atmosphere, pose or light. Many of these Polaroids were Kooiker’s source material for series like Showground (2004), Room Service (2008), Crush (2009), but also Sunday (2011) which you can see in the previous gallery.

This whole series of Polaroids was acquired by the Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag. Heaven is on loan to FOMU.

Publications (1990-2018)
Photobooks have had an undeniable influence on the international diffusion and recognition of Paul Kooiker’s work, and his collaboration with designer, publisher and gallery owner Willem van Zoetendaal has played a crucial role in this. Between 1999 and 2013 they produced more than ten publications together. In 2014 Kooiker started working with designer and publisher Jurgen Maelfeyt of Art Paper Editions.

The display case provides an almost complete overview of this collection of books: from monographs and more obscure publications to autonomous artists’ editions and commissioned work. To tie in with the exhibition, Art Paper Editions, Dashwood Books and FOMU are publishing Eggs and Rarities, which will be added to the display case when it appears in September 2018.

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