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"Sean Landers: Text and Cartoon Works on Paper, Paintings, Sculptures, Video and Audio Works"
2004-08-28 until 2004-10-31
Kunsthalle Zurich
Zurich, , CH

Since the early nineties, the work of Sean Landers has been one of the most fascinating and repeatedly irritating projects in contemporary art. The polar opposites of tormented self-doubt and endless self-aggrandizement run like a thread through the artist’s work along with a number of masks of failure used by the subject as a strategy to preserve himself from impending failure. The Kunsthalle Zurich presents an overview of Sean Landers' oeuvre in his first institutional solo exhibition ever, including text and cartoon works on paper, paintings, sculptures, video and audio works from 1992 to the present.

“My original idea was to make conceptual art entertaining, sloppy, emotional, human and funny. Over the years I got so far out on this conceptual limb that I went around full circle until I was a traditional artist again. I tried to be ironic about it but eventually became sincere. Now I’m a happy victim of my own charade. I figure that it’s better to be a sucker who makes something than a wise guy who is too cautious to make anything at all”. (Sean Landers, "The Booby", 1998)

With text and video works that appear masked as Conceptual Art in the early 90s, he introduced into this art genre the taboo of the subject and the emotionality of the artist. Radical soul-baring, an emotional quarrel with his own and others’ estimations, private and professional longings and torments all run through his works. He is known as the artist who – with confessional and stream-of-consciousness texts and videos – presents himself as an artist who is failing with his art, his life and his relationships.

Over the course of the past fifteen years Landers' work has repeatedly surprised his audience by the artistic production of new styles and a dabbler’s input. With a formal vocabulary and a history of art motifs, he has managed to come up with a multi-faceted undertaking that revolves around the contradictions and the odyssey of human feelings.

Landers’ performances of the authentic bring up to date the tradition of the great ‘idiots’ from the history of culture and art. Jean-Yves Jouannais in his publication «L’idiotie – art, vie, politique» pointed out the difference between the old fashioned ‘primal idiot’ who disappears in his work and the modern ‘cunning idiot’ who evades disappearance, who uses authenticity as cleverness, as cunning idiocy. Sean Landers’ idiocy is that of cunning or idiocy as symbolic protection.

All the prototypes of the subject/artist-subject as idiots and art as idiocy have come up in his work: the ‘idiot savant’ of the 20th century with Landers-specific self-divestments that drive authenticity into absurdity; the ‘singerie’ that is introduced in the 18th century as a topic for the doubtful, aping and manipulative role of the artist and of art; and the figure of the clown, which reoccurs since the 19th century in changing appearances as an allegory role of failure, gaucherie and a grandiose masquerade of the self (Picasso, Rouault, Beckmann, Nauman, Borofsky, Rondinone, Cattelan, to name only a few).


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