Presenting Gironcoli: Context over the summer of 2013, the Belvedere
devotes an exhibition to the great Austrian sculptor Bruno Gironcoli that is the first to place his works within a network of relevant modern and more recent approaches, thereby honouring the oeuvre of one of the major exponents of contemporary sculpture. Three years after his death and sixteen years after his last major one-man show at the Vienna Museum of Applied Arts/Contemporary Art (1997), the Belvedere has undertaken the task of reviewing Gironcoli's work in an exhibition that extensively highlights his early output and juxtaposes his art with that of prominent protagonists of both national and international contemporary sculpture. Never before has there been a show to present this exceptional artist as part of an international movement that began redefining art in the 1960s by breaking up the confines of traditional genres and questioning hitherto valid norms. Moreover, the exhibition elucidates an essential aspect of art production during the 1960s and 1970s, when the genre of sculpture opened up to such new media as photography, film, and performance.
Contextualization with works by major exponents of three-dimensional art
In spite of several internationally recognized monographic exhibitions in Austria and abroad, the reception of Bruno Gironcoli's art has been dominated by the impression of an unfathomable uniqueness that has made it difficult to objectively embed his work into the major developments of twentieth-century sculpture. Based on references to and analogies with works by other artists named by Gironcoli himself, Gironcoli: Context presents works by ten exponents from various generations of artists, from the 1960s to the present: Carl Andre, Francis Bacon, Matthew Barney, Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, Günter Brus, Jürgen Klauke, Bruce Nauman, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, and Franz West. "The exhibition follows a fundamental curatorial concept that has meanwhile become a principle at the Belvedere and 21er Haus. By combining old and new, classical and contemporary approaches, and domestic and international art production, we intend to reveal new aspects in both the one and the other and create meaningful correlations. By juxtaposing works of art from different periods or cultures, we wish to encourage new reflections on their thematic and formal similarities," Agnes Husslein-Arco, director of the Belvedere and 21er Haus, points out.
The exhibition presents outstanding works by the artist from 1965 to 1982: in search of a modern human image, Gironcoli came to experiment with new industrial materials in his early period, formulating his own concept of art and sculpture, which evolved from his early wire figures to polyester objects and the so-called Environments. Yet at the same time, he gave a lot of attention to what was going on in the contemporary art world. In his works, Gironcoli concentrated on a limited number of themes. These constants, varying only by their degree of emphasis and interplay, include the pairs of injury and torture, anxiety and sexuality, ritual and obsession, and fetich and sex, as well as father, mother and child. "The contextualization of selected works by Gironcoli with those by national and international exponents of three-dimensional and installation art of the past decades constitutes the point of departure for our exhibition. It has been our goal to comprehend this sculptor, so singular in his artistic practice and seemingly so mysterious, in his general art historical significance. Relationships are established between both Gironcoli's early room installations and his altar-like, cryptically symbolic monumental sculptures on the one hand and selected works by a number of artists on the other, so that Gironcoli himself and his exceptional position on the international scene will be elucidated," declares Bettina M. Busse, the exhibition's curator.
Andre | Bacon | Barney | Beuys | Bourgeois | Brus | Klauke | Nauman | Schwarzkogler | West
Besides Viennese Actionism, Joseph Beuys's social sculptures and performances were important points of reference for the young Gironcoli. His early works reflect his preoccupation with meaning-laden materials in the sense of Beuys and an influence of certain elements borrowed from Viennese Actionism, such as ritual, sacrifice, the combination of materials, and the transgression of limits. Works like Beuys's performance Eurasian Staff, taking place at the Galerie nächst St. Stephan in Vienna in 1967, and the Action photographs by Rudolf Schwarzkogler, as well as the film by Gunter Brus about Schwarzkogler's 4th Action come to mind here. Another theme of the 1960s was the exploration of surface and space, which led Gironcoli to Carl Andre and Minimal Art. The transformation of a seemingly neutral object into a sexually charged one is linked to the analysis of the polar sexuality of woman and man, which runs through Gironcoli's entire oeuvre. The neutralization of the sexes is also a central theme pursued by the German artist Jürgen Klauke. And in his surreal films, Matthew Barney, the youngest artist represented in the exhibition, likewise deals with the identity of the sexes, in a highly artificial language conceived by him. Similar to Gironcoli, Francis Bacon and Bruce Nauman address the issue of the conditio humana in an abstract, yet intensified manner. Francis Bacon figures in the exhibition with a picture from his famous series Portraits of Henrietta Moraes. Hanging Carousel impressively illustrates Bruce Nauman's investigation into physical and psychological violence. What Gironcoli shared with Louise Bourgeois, another maverick in the art world, was a lifelong preoccupation with the theme of maternity. Akin to that of Gironcoli, her art relies on themes strongly informed by personal experiences and emotions, the focus being on the human image, the figure of the mother, and the act of giving birth. The show also presents early Adaptives by Franz West, probably Gironcoli's most well-known student, which are based on works by Gironcoli and the Actionists.
A tensional relationship between sculptures and Baroque (garden) architecture
The show is complemented by a presentation in the Privy Garden of three casts dating from the years 1984 to 2003 that are meant to continue the principle of contextualization out of doors. They deal with a sculptor's classical theme of the seated figure, which in the case of Gironcoli is Murphy, inspired by Samuel Beckett's figure of the same name. A tensional relationship is thus created with the Baroque formal vocabulary of the Belvedere's architecture Murphyand garden, which adds a further possibility of drawing comparisons in terms of form and theme.