The exhibition fills 17 galleries and is conceived and organised by Christiaan Braun. Braun is well known in the art world for his striking exhibitions in the former Museum Overholland on the Museum Square in Amsterdam and, for the past two years, in Kabinet Overholland at the Stedelijk Museum. He has also been closely involved with the Museum of Modern Art in New York for some years.
Unlike Gerrit Komrij, Harry Mulisch and Queen Beatrix, who were invited to present their choice from the Stedelijk's collection, Braun has devised a free exhibition concept. He wanted to introduce in Holland a so far neglected movement in American art, which depicts life in an aesthetically uncommon, confronting manner. This resulted in a selection of work by five artists: Robert Crumb, Mike Kelley, Jim Nutt, Peter Saul and H.C. Westermann.
Born in 1943, Robert Crumb's reputation for his recalcitrant comix dates from the sixties. He is the spiritual father of several well-known comic-strip characters, including Fritz the Cat, Angelfood McSpade and Mr. Natural. He has also been involved in the publication of numerous magazines, such as Zap, Arcade, Weirdo and Hup!. In the opinion of many American artists Crumb's drawings break new ground and still exerts a strong influence. Eye Infection presents a selection from his sketchbook drawings of the sixties and a number of complete comic- strips. His exhibit fills the Print Room at the Stedelijk.
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has provided the impressive installation
Pay for your Pleasure by Mike Kelley (1954). Dating from 1988, it consists of 42 lifesize portraits of historical philosophers and poets, accompanied by quotes on creativity and criminality. Wherever the installation is exhibited, it ends with a self-portrait of a local criminal which becomes part of the work at the end of the show. The 56- year-old Dutchman Jan-Willem van E., who has spent 28 years in prison, has been chosen to succeed the American serial-killer John Wayne Gacy. THe works on paper in Eye Infection by Mike Kelley, who has never shown before in the Stedelijk, come from the Overholland collection and other European collections.
The cross-section of the work of Chicago-based Jim Nutt (1938) in Eye Infection covers the period from 1965 to 2001. Some fifty drawings and twenty-five paintings, mainly from American collections, have been selected for the exhibition. A number of Nutt's drawings were on view in last year's presentation Face to Face in Kabinet Overholland.
Peter Saul (1934) is represented in Eye Infection with forty paintings dating from 1960 to 2001 and chosen from Dutch, French and American collections. Work by Saul, who spent two years in the Netherlands in the late fifties, was selected for the 'New Realism' exhibition in the Minicipal Museum of The Hague in 1964.
A major retrospective of sculpture by H.C. Westermann (1922-1981) is currently touring the United States. Eye Infection complements this survey with more than a hundred works on paper. Most of them are drawings sent by the artist between 1961 and 1978 to his former gallerist Allan Frumkin, and include drawings for the sculptures in the current American retrospective. In Eye Infection four 'Death Ships' conveys an impression of Westermann's sculpture.
Eye Infection is accompanied by a richly illustrated 208- page book published by the Stedelijk Museum in association with Richter Verlag in Dusseldorf, with a preface by the Stedelijk's director Rudi Fuchs and an extensive introduction by Robert Storr, curator of modern art at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (English, ca. NLG 85.- ).The texts are already available to the press.
The Stedelijk Museum Bulletin no. 6/2001 (out on November 2) contains interviews with Crumb, Kelley, Nutt and Saul.
A recent and unexpected important contribution from eleven Dutch private collectors has made Eye Infection possible.