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Group Exhibition

Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich / Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York

2 x [ (2 x 20) + (2 x 2) ] + 2 = X x (desperately) trying to figure out the world Curated by Konrad Bitterli

Part I: Mai 36 Galerie, Zürich

Part II: Brooke Alexander Gallery, New York

What – apart from the use of language – connects Lawrence Weiner, the pioneer of conceptual art who grew up in the New York Bronx, with the contemplative Swiss artist Ian Anüll, who was born in Sempach and now lives in Zurich? What cross references of content are revealed between the work of John Baldessari, born in 1931, and that of the Belgian artist Koenrad Dedobbeleer, born in 1975, or Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989, and Jitka Hanzlová, born in 1958?

The work of these artists – drawn from a random selection – determines the art of the late 1960s to the present. They represent radical individual positions, they have developed an unmistakeable artistic language and have thus not only made their appearance in contemporary art, some of them have even made an important contribution to the history of art. In spite of all the obvious differences in their attitudes and approaches, two things connect these artists: on the one hand their investigation of the world, which issues from a sound conceptual basis, and a permanent reflection of their artistic means, which contrasts with the approach of pure 'L’art pour l’art'; on the other, entirely superficial, but by no means insignificant, a common venue of production and mediation of art: the Mai 36 Galerie in Zurich.

The somewhat cryptic equation in the exhibition's title 2 x [ (2 x 20) + (2 x 2) ] + 2 refers to the internationally active gallery. It was opened by Victor Gisler and Luigi Kurmann exactly 20 years ago with a solo exhibition of work by Les Levine in Lucerne, and it has since organised over 150 exhibitions, at first in Lucerne and then in Zurich, with work by dozens of artists, including those mentioned at the beginning and numerous other outstanding exponents of contemporary art who figure in the gallery's permanent programme. Reason enough for a jubilee exhibition that purports to be neither a transfigured view nor a nostalgic reflection, but an unbiased view of the gallery's twenty years activity and thus of twenty years committed to the mediation of international art.

For this occasion, the curator of the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Konrad Bitterli, was invited to realise a 'carte blanche' exhibition, with the first part to be exhibited in Zurich and the second in the Brooke Alexander Gallery in NewYork - 2x[(2x20)+(2x2)]+2 asanallusionto the gallery venues in Lucerne and Zurich – the two exhibitions organised for the anniversary, and work by the twenty-two artists who realised exhibitions during the Gallery's twenty years work and who are part of the core programme. In addition, the curator invited two other artists, as it were as a gesture of opening up and reflection. The play on numbers was intended to refer to the idea of a classical anniversary exhibition, while at the same time firmly reinterpreting it in a contextual sense, namely X x (desperately) trying to figure out the world.

"The exhibition programme is orientated towards the work of artists who are concerned with the fundamental issues of art. The starting point is formed by the most important artistic positions after 1945, which were primarily based in the 1960s and 70s (particularly pop, minimal and concept art). We are especially interested in art dedicated to themes of topical artistic interest such as perception, art as communication and art as a system, and art that discusses the meaning and function of art in society: unique artistic approaches that represent a contribution and stimulation to the discussion about the experience and perceptions of our time." Based on the gallery's formulated programme, the exhibition aims at throwing light on the connecting elements between the individual artists in the programme, whereby emphasis falls on a view of reality and the constant, sometimes desperate, attempt to comprehend our increasingly incalculable world and to create possible explanatory models for a fundamental understanding of the things by which we are surrounded and the circumstances that drive us and with which we are permanently confronted, either as direct, existential experience or as medially disseminated realities.

Thus 2 x [ (2 x 20 (2 x 2) ] + 2 combines eminently different artistic approaches in which the portrayal of reality and its permanent interpretation represent an essential impetus for the specific work. In the case of artists, this emphatically artistic view of the world is associated with the fundamental reflection on the means and possibilities of the medium used (painting, drawing, photography and video). It is the complex connection between conceptual intention and a specific interpretation of the world that meaningfully unites the different generations and approaches of artists in the programme of the Mai 36 Galerie - (desperately) trying to figure out the world. [Text: Konrad Bitterli]

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