NEW YORK, NY.- Andrea Rosen Gallery
announces The Thing and the Thing-in-Itself, an exhibition comprising a tightly focused group of 20th-century masterworks curated by noted art historian Robert Hobbs. Bringing together a compelling group of significant works, one by each of seven key 20th-century artists Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Kosuth, René Magritte, Piero Manzoni, Yoko Ono, Ad Reinhardt, and Robert Smithson this exhibition offers viewers the opportunity to look at familiar artists in a new way and with much greater depth, both in relationship to each other and in regards to their individual practices. The show opens December 12, 2014 at the Gallerys main space, 525 West 24th Street.
The Thing and the Thing-in-Itself focuses on the limits of human understanding that Immanuel Kant contemplated in The Critique of Pure Reason (1st ed. 1781). This philosopher speculated that humans only know things in the world through space and time, as well as the causes they attribute to these objects and events. Instead of accurately replicating the world, peoples understanding of it is dependent on their restricted ability to grasp it. In other words they construct the world they experience, making sensory information idiosyncratic and/or socially oriented rather than accurate, and peoples perception of their world an ongoing film or performance. It helps to consider Kants term thing-in-itself as shorthand for the strict limits to the ongoing theater of everyday life humans produce, direct, and cast, so that they themselves can then serve as its main players.
This exhibition utilizes Kants approach to reconsider how certain twentieth-century artists engaged the frontiers of human understanding in works that pit peoples sight and insight against the limits of what they are able to comprehend, i.e. the things they believe themselves to be seeing as opposed to things-in-themselves (Kants code word for humans inability to move beyond their own constructed views). Instead of presenting an art endeavoring to reveal its contents to viewers with the least amount of interference, The Thing and the Thing-in-Itself features works that act out the limits of human understanding as they create mysteries, pose conundrums, and leave viewers with provocative questions.
Starting in the second decade of the 20th century with Duchamps Readymades, arts status as an object became a subject of inquiry, with questions about differences between ordinary things and art. The Thing and the Thing-inItself consequently begins with Duchamps assisted readymade, Comb (Peigne), a steel grooming tool for dogs, inscribed with the words 3 ou 4 gouttes de hauteur nont rien a faire avec la sauvagerie; M.D. Feb. 17 1916 11 a.m. (Three or Four Drops of Height [or Haughtiness] Have Noting to Do with Savagery.). The exhibition then surveys the following six notable steps in the history of the art/thing challenge. René Magrittes La Clairvoyance of 1936 depicts a self-portrait of the artist in the process of metamorphosing his model, an egg, into a bird in flight on his canvas, thereby setting in place a tongue-in-cheek differential between representational painting and life. The early majestic black Reinhardt canvas from 1954 challenges the limits of sensory perception, with its grid poised on the divide between visibility and invisibility. Manzonis Merda dartista (Artists Shit) (1961), a tin of artists feces, ironically undermines the artists traditional role as creator, the value placed on arts materiality, and the traditional view of it as a container of enlightening contents. Kosuths Glass Words Material Described (1965) consists of exactly these four words painted on four transparent sheets of glass to undermine arts putative transparency and accessibility. Onos 1966 live video feed of the sky above the gallery contrasts literalism with traditional expectations of transcendence. And Smithsons Non-site: Line of Wreckage (Bayonne, New Jersey) of 1968 undermines the art objects sovereignty as it creates an interplay between the metal bin containing landfill with a map and photographs of the site in Bayonne, making this work a dislocated boundary marker. - Robert Hobbs
Art historian Dr. Robert Hobbs has written widely on modern and contemporary art, including extended essays on David Altmejd, Keith Haring, Richard Jackson, Jonathan Lasker, Robert Longo, Sterling Ruby, Yinka Shonibare, Frank Stella, Tavares Strachan, Kara Walker, Kelley Walker, John Wesley, and Kehinde Wiley, among others. His monographs have focused on such artists as Milton Avery, Alice Aycock, Edward Hopper, Lee Krasner, Mark Lombardi, Robert Motherwell, Beverly Pepper, Richard Pousette-Dart, and Robert Smithson.
Hobbs served as curator for the Venice Biennales American National Pavilion (Smithson, 1981) and the Bahamian National Pavilion (Tavares Strachan, 2013), as well as the American Representation at the São Paulo Biennial (Kara Walker, 2002). He has curated exhibitions at major museums nationally and internationally such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Drawing Center, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Academic positions include Associate Professor, Cornell University; long-time Visiting Professor, Yale University; and Thalhimer Endowed Chair, Virginia Commonwealth University.