Gary Kuehn “Il diletto del praticante” at Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo
Il diletto del praticante (Practitioner’s Delight) is the title of the first solo exhibition in an Italian museum by American sculptor Gary Kuehn (Plainfield, New Jersey, 1939), which pays homage to the novel artistic curriculum of the artist, whose raw, radical language developed from an initial reflection on the physicality of materials and played a significant role in the birth of a new conception of sculpture, equidistant from the subjectivism of Expressionist abstraction and the objectivity and geometric rigor of minimalism.
Critics associated Kuehn’s work with Post-Minimalist and Process Art currents, with his participation in watershed exhibitions like the famous 1966 Eccentric Abstraction, curated by Lucy Lippard, and the 1969 When Attitudes Become Form, curated by Harald Szeemann, but it escapes classification and lingers on the borders of various artistic movements.
From a working-class family, and a manual worker himself when he was a student in Madison and in New Brunswick, as well as being a trade union supporter, Kuehn spent over five decades exploring the tension between change and deformation, his intent being to refute “the dogma of the cube”, as he has repeatedly declared, and “to subvert the force of pure forms”.
The exhibition is composed of four sections, divided between the museum’s display areas and Palazzo della Ragione’s prestigious Sala delle Capriate; it will present a significant core of about 70 works, including sculptures, drawings, paintings, and installations, among the most important in the artist’s corpus, dating from the early 1960s to the most recent pieces, with a series of new items specifically made for this occasion.
The show explores a multidirectional path that aims to review the evolution of Gary Kuehn’s artistic language and highlight the surprising relevance of his work.
Bergamo’s venerable Palazzo della Ragione–built in the late twelfth century, in Bergamo Alta’s medieval heart–will host a selection of quintessential 1960s sculptural works, almost all of which have not been seen before in Italy. The works are all on a large scale and will interact with Sala delle Capriate’s fascinating architecture. Deemed the ideal size for the works, the room will be emptied of all furnishings for the occasion, thereby underscoring its unusual beauty.
The entire historical series – from the Wedge Pieces to the Bolt Pieces, from Melt to Mattress Pieces, and the Pedestal Pieces – will be represented here, affording the visitor an exhaustive overview of the first, fundamental, creative decade, and an introduction to the second part of the exhibition, hosted in the GAMeC rooms.
The first floor of the museum will house three sections, corresponding to some of the fundamental “contrasts” investigated by Kuehn during his artistic career: deformation/adaptation, connection/separation, freedom/limitation. Antagonisms that in over fifty years of career, have shaped a corpus in which the sense of material presence and craftsmanship become instruments to express metaphorical and psychological dimensions. Thus, the installation will not unfold in a chronological sequence but will focus on the dialectic relationship between sculptures, paintings and drawings, both from the past and more recent times, drawing forth the themes that underpin the artist’s production. Progressing from the first post-minimalist sculptures, now internationally famous, through graphic works, two-dimensional zinc and copper works, and the Black Paintings of the 1970s and also those of more recent production in the Noughties; the Twist Pieces and Berliner Series of the 1980s and 1990s; then the resin sculptures and the Stencil Drawings of recent years, as well as the Gesture Projects that the artist has produced since the 1960s, throughout his career to the present time.
The exhibition will also be the occasion for presenting a new interview with the artist, recorded specially for the event, which discusses the fundamental steps in the evolution of his career, focusing in particular on the relationship with American Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, and Italian Arte Povera, developing a parallel reflection on the present.
The exhibition catalogue, published by Mousse Publishing in collaboration with GAMeC Books, includes texts by Alex Bacon, Lorenzo Giusti, David Komary, and a conversation between Gary Kuehn and Sara Fumagalli.
The exhibition is part of a series in honour of Arturo Toffetti.
at Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo
until 26 August 2018