At this years Frieze Masters, Mai 36 Galerie is delighted to show a selection of final works by General Idea. Founded by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal in Toronto in 1969, they operated as an internationally active artist group until 1994, when both Partz and Zontal died of AIDS-related causes.
The final works, mostly entitled with Infe©ted, are reformulated simulacra of works by Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp and Gerrit Rietveld – all modernist masters with an aspect of spirituality embedded in their works.
In 1993/94 General Idea transformed the «De Stijlsche» primary colours into the red/green/blue of their AIDS logo in paintings such as Infe©ted Mondrian #11, 1994/2019. They took this gesture further in a series of ‹real› reproduction Rietveld chairs, in which the yellow has been painted over with green. Infe©ted Coeurs Volants, 1994 and Infe©ted Pharmacie, 1994 both quote works by Duchamp, while the work Achrome (Manzoni) #2, 1994 uses the medicinal bandage of a Piero Manzoni painting, transformed into one of General Idea’s signature capsule pills.
General Idea, Infe©ted, 1994, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
A set of self-portraits by the group of artists, who portrayed themselves as doctors, babies and poodles in constantly changing versions since 1982 were General Idea’s answer to the «Neue Figuration». The fact that they sometimes took the affected, over bred poodle as their trademark is thoroughly characteristic of their artistic strategy of paradox.
With their media-related conceptual art, General Idea took a satirical approach to the existing norms of the art world, media culture and consumerism. Their involvement from the early 1970s onwards in arenas such as punk, queer theory and AIDS activism brought them international acclaim. General Idea refers to a topical aesthetic discourse, for references to classical modern art are well in fashion, and the idea of the mutual penetration of art and life is once again regarded as a feasible vision. As key figures in the conceptual art scene of the time, they used a variety of media and platforms, creating a diverse oeuvre that included installations, performances, photography, works on canvas, videos and drawings as well as magazines, multiples, editions, postcards, posters, wallpapers and more. Performance played an important role in their work, including beauty contests, television talk-shows and trade fair pavilions. As pioneers of early conceptual and media-specific art, the group is widely recognized as a model for artist-initiated activities and continues to this day to influence younger generations of artists.
General Idea, 2009, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
General Idea, 2013, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
General Idea, 2019, Mai 36 Galerie, Zurich
General Idea’s oeuvre was last shown in the exhibition General Idea: Broken Time/Tiempo Partido at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City and the MALBA in Buenos Aires. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa is organizing a major retrospective for 2021. Their works are present in the collections of numerous renowned institutions worldwide, such as the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Tate Gallery in London.
The long-term relationship between General Idea and Mai 36 Galerie goes back to 1988.