Artspace

John M. Armleder & Sylvie Fleury

John M. Armleder

10 April - 22 May 1999

A joint project with Auckland Art Gallery, with support from Pro Helvetia / Arts Council of Switzerland and Jenny Gibbs

 

I try most of the time to radically undermine what I tend to achieve easily. It works this way, but then a system grows that has to be undermined as well... I guess I was raised together with that generation which was convinced that there were no rules, no one truth, no power to impose, no ruling authority, and, within that scheme, that life was to be lived for the better ... Sometimes my systematic use and misuse of modernism attaches me to a philosophy of scepticism, of the eternal 'rechauffe', of the witty commentator of a consumer culture and society. Maybe I don't care enough about UFOs, but I know that UFO sceptics are not my friends.
—John M Armleder

John Armleder resists pigeonholing. The Swiss artist draws on, juxtaposes, and merges styles and procedures from modernist art, modern design, and modern life: constructivism, art deco, suprematism, action painting, minimalism, op art, disco, Hawaiian music, and monster movies all find a place in his work. His appropriations are neither simple affirmation nor deflation, instead he keeps many possibilities at play, in check. By avoiding either adopting or directly critiquing the dogmas associated with his sources, Armleder rehabilitates as much as satirises, offering new possibilities in new arrangements. Many of his works conflate two distinct traditions of modern art: formal abstraction and the readymade, for instance juxtaposing found and bought objects (often furniture and musical instruments) with paintings, or discovering 'found' paintings.

Armleder has worked for more than thirty years, starting off in the 1960s as a performance artist in the Fluxus inspired Geneva group Ecart (French for diversion). Rather than work out of a studio, he travels, producing shows on the road, using galleries as studio spaces, working up shows in response to particular spaces, opportunities, possibilities. Armleder's Artspace show features a huge range of different kinds of work including wall paintings, a fluoro-tube sculpture (a 'collapsed Flavin'), scrap-metal installations, 'pour' paintings, a  mirror-ball installation and 'paintings' made from the gallery's ceiling tiles. The show is an excellent introduction to the work of one of Switzerland's most important contemporary artists. Armleder is visiting New Zealand with his partner and sometime collaborator, artist Sylvie Fleury, who has a concurrent show at Auckland Art Gallery's New Gallery.

 

Fleury's work revels in the fickleness of fashion trends—this season's colours. Creating installations from shopping bags, designer shoes and celebrity exercise videos, Fleury takes full advantage of the tenuous line between art, fashion, and consumerism. As part of a performance in Geneva, she drove over a Chanel compact with her gold 1967 Buick Skylark as if in some temper tantrum: 'I kept on going back and forth over this compact and ... it would not break. So I had to finalise it with a hammer.' Like Armleder, Fleury nags the boundaries between art and not art. She is fascinated by what she calls 'over processing', for instance her fake-fur Mondrians play with the way Mondrian images have been recycled by Yves St Laurent for dresses and for packaging L'Oreal hair products. When art becomes commodity in this way the boundaries between the two collapse: you don't know whether the reference is to the artist or to L'Oreal. Peter Weibel characterises Fleury's work as an 'invasion of the sublime male world of symbols by the code of trivial symbols'. A muscle car fan, Fleury's exhibition at Auckland Art Gallery's New Gallery features a wall painting of flames, done in the style used on custom hot rods, and a video of her Gucci-shod foot pressing down on the accelerator.

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