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"WALTER OBHOLZER, ROZA EL-HASSAN "
2000-12-07 until 2001-01-21
secession
Vienna, , AT

The Secession continues in its programmatic tradition of presenting international positions of contemporary painting with a one man show of Walter Obholzer’s work. In the main room Walter Obholzer shows his latest work, some of which was created especially for the Secession show. The exhibition architecture was designed by the Pauhof Architectural Group. Concurrently, the Secession will show pieces which shed light on the versatility of Róza El-Hassan’s artistic work: objects and sketches, as well as a collection of realized and unrealized group projects entitled Leseraum (Reading Room) which document the idea of artistic exchange.

In his 1992 essay on the conceptual in Austrian contemporary art, Markus Brüderlin stated that not only had a genuine extension of Duchamp’s idea of art taken place in Vienna, but also that the idea of art as context had been processed on a formal level through the conceptualization of the idea of decoration, thereby building on local traditions. According to him, these local traditions could be traced back to the Jugendstil movement of the Secessionists, and it was before this backdrop that a group of young Austrian artists in the ‘80s were to be seen as they began to intensify the critical debate as to institutional frameworks of production, agency, and reception of art and, in so doing, entered into the international discourse of conceptual art.

Born in 1953, Walter Obholzer was among the artists in question. With his work he made a major contribution toward the establishment of decoration on the painted surface as a formal counterpoint to that which functions on the surface of object art with Duchamp as a category of context. … Just as context describes the formation of meanings and functions through placement in various juxtapositions, so does decoration make the boundaries between differing formal, societal, ontological, and historical realms visible and create relationships between them. (M.B.)

Walter Obholzer works with existing, inorganic forms such as ornaments and emblems. In this way he not only introduces collective formal memories into his images, but also mixes in his findings on the structures of communication in our mass-media influenced information age, in which the ornament acts as a structurally ordering principle for digital worlds of images. Walter Obholzer usually uses thin aluminum sheets or the wall itself as a vehicle for his images; the painting enters into a symbiotic relationship with the exhibition space itself. By means of this flexible definition lying somewhere between an autonomous painting and stationary wall painting a new kind of functionality of painting comes into being. One and the same motif can appear in different locations and atmospherically melt into the various givens of the place. This unusual applied character of the painting, together with the seemingly paradoxical connection of the stationary locality of the exhibition site and the unlimited tangibility of the images point out Walter Obholzer’s notion of painting, which is borne by the central idea of binding the fleetingness of the image to the concept of a site. The tense relationship thus characterizing Walter Obholzer’s work is heightened by the historical significance of the exhibition space in the Secession show. The main space of the Secession is, rather famously, that of one of the first white cubes, an ideal exhibition space from the point of view of the Secessionists. Into this theoretical discourse on the ideological neutrality of the white cube Walter Obholzer invited the Pauhof Architectural Group. For the presentation of his images they designed an exhibition that breaks away from the totalitarian character (W.O.) of other painting shows.

The left and right side galleries of the main space are cordoned off by a 40 cm high platform that fills the space. A section of the walls, the floor, and the ceiling are covered with black paint. This gives the impression of two enormous pipes that could actually be entered. Floating walls with extreme angles and spans create a dynamic effect in the central space and rear gallery. With very minimal formal elements, therefore, the Pauhof Group achieves a maximal new sense of space which utterly changes one’s perception of painting. Topics such as time, motion, active and passive perception of images and of the exhibition site itself are integrated in a way which makes them visible.

In their work, both Walter Obholzer and the Pauhof Architectural Group are on the lookout for the kinds of abstractions that create new realities. Walter Obholzer does this within the context of painting, while the Pauhof Group work as architects. But both put their artistic medium to use as a system for reflection in which painting and architecture function as an etherealized process of discovery.

Róza El-Hassan’s work is characterized by its sensuality and the dynamic inherent to the materials she uses. Simple, seemingly banal or everyday objects and materials serve as the basis for dynamic systems which function where the artist is actually operating with static dimensions.

In looking at El-Hassan’s work the viewer enters a world bound up in the search for abstraction. However, the pieces do not tell stories; rather, they live from their formal and material appearance alone. R. Thinking About Overpopulation (1999-2000), for example, depicts through the use of simple materials (a balloon, fabric, and wood), a being crouching on the ground. The object offers a basic framework; the viewer is left to provide his own associations and political paradigms. Certain studies for objects, or the piece Spektrum – a basalt stone garnished with pins – highlight the fact that the artist is interested in raising consciousness about the way art is made, as well as in questions of material and form. The unrelenting hardness of the stone meets the relative softness of the needles, and by thus sidestepping the laws of matter paradoxical tensions are produced.

In the gallery cross-space a Reading Room has been installed, inviting the visitor to browse over a selection of El-Hassan’s cooperative projects. Beáta Veszely, for instance, shows slides from a common exhibition in Glasgow, Luchezar Boyadjiev the video project Inversed Beggar, or Milica Tomi_ an audio piece, for which she reconstructed a telephone conversation between Róza El-Hassan and herself.

IMAGE:
WALTER OBHOLZER,
Detail Nr.8 1999,
Tempera auf Aluminium, 75 x 75 cm


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