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Pinakothek der Moderne opens exhibition of works by Jonathan Meese
Jonathan Meese, OHNE TITEL, 1994–1995. Mixed Media, 25 20 37 cm. Photography Jan Bauer . Net | Courtesy Jonathan Jonathan Meese /VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018.

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 Meese’s 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 artist’s 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 artist’s earliest performances – gathered from his own personal archive – is being shown as well.

A look back brings the central themes of Meese’s 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 children’s room, and the ambivalence of evil. The appearance of an innocent, clear-sighted baby animal provides a counterbalance and directs the viewer’s attention to the unexpectedly tender aspects of Meese’s 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 ‘Meese’s 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 Meese’s 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 Knig, containing a glossary by the artist, and facsimiles of his earlier artist’s 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

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