MUNICH.- Jonathan Meese (b. 1970 in Tokyo and based in Berlin) is one of the most internationally renowned and polarizing artists of his generation. His world views and reflections on mythology and the power of art are voiced not only in the mediums of painting, sculpture, installation, and performance; Meese also uses language as a material, incorporating into his work devices like onomatopoeia and literary tropes. Jonathan Meeses use of image and text both playful and thoughtful at once is at the focal point of this exhibition, which includes works from the last twenty-five years.
At the core of the exhibition are 18 paintings from a series that the artist, until now, has deliberately kept for himself. Several of the paintings on display are being revealed to the public for the first time. Selected works from German private collections enhance the presentation.
In addition, 25 spatial models and small sculptures, as well as approximately 75 drawings, photo collages, and artists books are on display. Here for the first time, Meese exhibits the spatial models made in the mid-90s as stand-alone objects. Realized between 1993 and 2000, most of the drawings also are making their public debut. Footage of one of the artists earliest performances gathered from his own personal archive is being shown as well.
A look back brings the central themes of Meeses oeuvre into sharp relief. In the early works one can observe the complex first formulations of these themes, including: gestures and insignias of power, male and female warriors, fairy-tale villains, night terrors in the childrens room, and the ambivalence of evil. The appearance of an innocent, clear-sighted baby animal provides a counterbalance and directs the viewers attention to the unexpectedly tender aspects of Meeses pictorial cosmos.
A work in situ, Jonathan Meese designed a carpet-diagram exclusively for the museum show in Munich. Staking out various coordinates, it provides the topography of the exhibition and thus unites Meeses Odyssey as a Gesamtkunstwerk (total artwork). In the Greek epic poem the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus embarks on a series of dangerous adventures and faces mysterious challenges and, in the end, returns home changed. Like a present-day Ulysses, in this exhibition Jonathan Meese navigates his way through an imaginary journey with numerous stops along the way. Encountering various ambivalent characters and situations, the artist courageously adopts the most archaic role of a symbolic saviour and liberator who, nevertheless, is not always victorious.
With this exhibition, Jonathan Meeses art proves to be as timeless as it is contemporary. His approach is in a league with that of other artists for example, Beckmann, Bacon, Balthus, Baselitz, Picasso, Rauch, Warhol, and Van Gogh when he confronts disturbing subjects in self-appointed challenges, set for the sake of mastering them to the furthest extent possible. Of course, he is not always successful. But failure opens up new paths and the journey becomes its own reward.
Several publications (in German) are due for release to coincide with the exhibition: a paperback, published by the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, containing a glossary by the artist, and facsimiles of his earlier artists books, Die Monosau and Marshall Marshallson IV, published by Institutions. Jonathan Meese will appear in conversation in an evening event billed as Art Is Future! The Future Is Art! (Art ≠ Artists) (event in German, 13 December 2018 at 06.30 p.m.). January will also see the launch of an event series running parallel to the show, with screenings and discussions of video shorts of performances by the artist.
Curators: Bernhart Schwenk and Swantje Grundler