BERLIN.- Monika Sprüth and Philomene Magers
present an exhibition of work by British artist Keith Arnatt (1930 2008) in Berlin, which is the artists first solo presentation with Sprüth Magers. The exhibition showcases photographs from the artists series Notes from Jo (1991 1995), in which Arnatt photographed personal notes and domestic reminders written to him by his late wife. Also on display is work from the series Labels Borrowed/Stolen (1993 1995), featuring photographs of labels and signs taken from local shops.
Keith Arnatt was one of the UKs leading artists during the emergence of conceptual art in the 1960s and 1970s. His work from this period explores the range of possibilities of meaning and function within art, as well as considering how the perception of an artwork operates in relation to the act of creating a work. The artists extensive use of photography during this time was mainly to record works whose physicality was connected to specific contexts. From 1973, Arnatt began to develop a growing interest in the camera as an instrument for art making, adopting the camera as his primary tool for producing art rather than simply documenting it. The artists subsequent photographic series underscore his analytic method of working, and reveal an observational style influenced by his awareness of the typological preoccupations of artists and photographers such as Bernd and Hilla Becher.
The exhibition at Sprüth Magers focuses on the series Notes from Jo, in which Arnatt collected and photographed the hand-written messages that his wife Jo left him around the house. Ranging from the mundane to the angry, the instructions reveal the beauty, intimacy and humour of domestic life. Arnatts preservation of these notes through photographic documentation underlines the artists distinctive skill of being able to discern the visual and conceptual possibilities of objects and remnants from daily life. Taken out of context and blown up they become surreal, showing Arnatts understanding that observation could be transformed by the act of isolation. The interest in language recalls Arnatts earlier conceptual text pieces, and marks a continued investigation of the use of text in image making, playing with how meaning slips from the conceptual to the visual, from the intellectual to the emotional.
Labels Borrowed/Stolen is a body of work that the artist created in the same period as Notes from Jo. Arnatt took everyday labels and signs from local shops photographing them as objects in his makeshift studio.
The works on show in the exhibition also stand as studies in colour and line. The artist worked first in black and white photography, changing to colour in the mid 1980s. The images within Notes from Jo are rendered in colour and composed in a spare, frontal, documentary style. The artists sharp eye for specifically pictorial effects can be seen in the red ink of ARCHIES GRUB, which collides vividly with the flash of green lining of the envelope on which the words have been scribbled, as well as in the dabbled green effect of the smudged black ink in ME, RING DENTIST.
Keith Arnatt was born in Oxford, UK in 1930. He died in Wales in 2008. Major solo exhibitions include Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1977), Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol (1986), The Photographers Gallery, London (1989, 2007), CAYC - Centro de Arte y Comunicación, Buenos Aires (1992), XXI Bienal de Săo Paulo (1991), Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2009), Tate Britain, London (2013).
Major group exhibitions include Seattle Art Museum (1969), Camden Arts Centre, London (1969), Tate Gallery, London (1972), Hayward Gallery, London (1972), MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970), Vancouver Art Gallery (1970), Barbican Art Gallery, London (1990), Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2001), Tate Britain, London (2002, 2007), Fundació Joan Miró, Centre dEstudis dArt Contemporani, Barcelona (2003), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2004), Kunstmuseum Bern (2006), MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2009), Royal Academy of Arts, London (2011), Henry Moore Institute, Leeds (2011), MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012).