Kelley Walker and General Idea at MAMCO, Geneva
Kelley Walker (born in 1969, Columbus, USA) uses both techniques from Pop Art (such as collages, photography and screen-printing) and contemporary digital tools to examine the circulation and consumption of images.
The MAMCO retrospective brings together the main series that the artist has produced, namely: the Black Stars Press, which involves superimposing screen-printed images similar to those used by Warhol and layers of chocolate; the Rorschach, fragmented mir- rors alluding to the Swiss psychiatrist’s famous test; the Brick Paintings, mixing patterns of bricks and information from printed media; and some of his more recent probes into the shift from image to object, as well as several new works.
Using collage, borrowings, displacement, and juxtaposition, Kelley Walker observes how images are diffused in the media and explores their irreductable matériality. Whether dealing with melted chocolate, a shattered windscreen, stickers or printed matter, Kelley Walker’s work underlines our urban, anonymous gestures (be they collective or regressive) which are all always acts of insu- bordination to the messages imposed by the media.
For example, the photographs in Disasters have been scanned from magazines, then transformed using infographic software and confronted with a political slogan. As simple digital files, these pieces allow their owner to choose the print dimensions and modes of distribution that suit them best, thus alluding to the judgements made in the world of the media. While in his early work the artist dealt with questions of cultural signs by using material elements, this exploitation of the in nitely multipliable potential of the digital universe adds an extra distance.
The paintings of bricks, or the adoption of documents to do with the repression of the Civic Rights movement, which the artist—like Warhol—has taken from Life Magazine, are some of the routes that he has adopted so as to draw up an anthropological landscape of the USA, its ideology and racial as well as sexual violence.
In his appropriation of images and reuse of loaded cultural signs, Kelley Walker displays a particular economy: devoid of any nostalgia for the loss of art’s aura, his works develop both a strategy of formal seduction and a distancing of the spectator. The technical process that allows images to be displayed as icons or messages is, thus, a process that de aters their power.
at MAMCO, Geneva
until 10 September 2017
General Idea “Photographs (1969-1982)”
Founded by AA Bronson (b. 1946), Jorge Zontal (b. 1944, d. 1994), and Felix Partz (b. 1945, d. 1994), the Canadian collective General Idea produced one of the most striking oeuvre from the 1970s and 1980s. This multiform work took on the glamour of popular images, the ideology of mass media, and the commonplaces spread throughout the art world, always with a strong sense of irony.
General Idea was founded by the three artists in 1969 in Vancouver when they decided to live and work together. Mindful readers of Marshal McLuhan and Roland Barthes’ Mythologies, they organized in 1970 a beauty contest to elect a Miss General Idea: a mythological, asexual, faceless, and blurry gure who will become their muse. The fol- lowing year, they began a 13-year-long c- tion, The 1984 Miss General Idea Pavilion. Behind this “project,” a strange fiction is taking place, like the pieces of a gigantic puzzle that is constantly being redefined.
Stemming from the group’s archives, the exhibition at MAMCO, conceived in close collaboration with AA Bronson, tackles the first ten years of their career under the specific angle of photography. The aesthetics of these early works borrows from Minimal, Conceptual, as well as Land art, and the regulars from MAMCO will certainly find an echo to works from Dennis Oppenheim, Franz Erhard Walther, or even Victor Burgin. However these photographs are also documents from the group’s life within the context of communitarian utopias which left their mark on the 1960s in Northern America.
From the start—and their beauty contest— photography is their privileged medium which they use to feed their mythology. Following their principle of “form follows ction,” the works produced during this period systematically relate to their muse and her pavi-
lion, through an iconographic repertoire constituted of pieces of clothing and accessories, mirrors, Venetian blinds, or the ziggurat pattern.
The exhibition also pays attention to the role of edition within the production and diffusion of these images. FILE Magazine thus became one of the most accomplished artists’ magazine of its time. Presented by General Idea as a “cultural parasite” appropriating and distorting the famous LIFE Magazine (the company eventually sued the collective), this publication featured the group’s manifestoes and projects, chronicled the artistic life, and introduced new cultural trends. Throughout their 26 issues, from 1972 to 1989, FILE contributed to broaden General Idea’s audience beyond the art eld.
at MAMCO, Geneva
until 10 September 2017