Do we live in the age of appropriation? Of course, we do, at least according to practices by some of the most renowned contemporary artists today. Yes, it’s true – the word appropriation may sound offensive, but appropriation is completely legit in art. So many great artists built an entire oeuvre on appropriation and repetition (just to mention Andy Warhol or Roy Lichtenstein); it couldn’t be possible to understand some of the most recognized contemporary artworks without having appropriation in mind. There are artists who believe the appropriation is in the core of their oeuvre; there are those who reject the notion of originality, and so on. Jonathan Monk, an amazing British artist, has his own reasons for choosing appropriation, and the visitors of the Blondeau & Cie in Geneva will have an opportunity to see his art during the exhibition entitled The Life Sized Black (a Porsche for RH).
Jonathan Monk is a British contemporary artist who was born in Leicester in 1969. In his practice, he replays, recasts and re-examines seminal works of Conceptual and Minimal art by variously witty, ingenious and irreverent means. Speaking in 2009, he said: Appropriation is something I have used or worked with in my art since starting art school in 1987. At this time (and still now) I realized that being original was almost impossible, so I tried using what was already available as source material for my own work. The work of Jonathan Monk can be found in public and private collections around the world. He has exhibited extensively since the 1990s. Monk revisits and reinterprets works from contemporary art with a mixture of wit, ingenuity, and irreverence, appropriating and reorganizing elements from a vast collection of images in a manner that is ironic but may also contain autobiographical allusions. Monk considers the written concept for his works as of equal importance to the physical realizations themselves, much as Sol LeWitt conceived the instructions for his Wall Drawings from 1968 on. Monk himself explains his choice of appropriation as an artistic method by the realization that being original was almost impossible, and that therefore he needed to use what was already available as source material.
When it comes to the exhibitions that are highly conceptually rich, it’s very important to read and understand the artist’s statement. Here is how the artist describes his new show in Geneva, The Life Sized Black (a Porsche for RH):
Some time ago I accidentally acquired a small book by Richard Hamilton.
It was to become part of a series of accidental purchases, but I didn't know that at the time.
The 911 handbook was written by Richard Hamilton but not the English artist of the same name.
I started to research the other Richard Hamilton's writings and as is often the case my journey took another twist and a turn until it stopped dead at the website of the auction house Bonhams.
They listed a 1973 Porsche 911S 2.4-Litre Coupé once owned by Richard Hamilton... but which Richard Hamilton? - all very mysterious...
I read further and it was a car once owned by the artist RH. He used it to drive to and from his studio and jaunts into London and to his summer house in Spain and his numerous galleries on the continent.
The car had been very carefully looked after and only ever serviced by one specific local Porsche dealership – it was in perfect order for a forty year-old car and it sold accordingly for € 541,526 including buyer’s premium. I am not sure if it was sold as the perfect vintage Porsche 911 or as a car once owned by one of Britain's most important artists... - I guess we'll never know.
I decided to continue the journey and complete the circuit by making images of the car – it was important for me to make life-sized images... like a real car. But the only picture available was via Bonhams’ website – enlarging, measuring and cropping created an almost completely abstract version of the car – each of the ten photographs containing 800 square pixels… Printed on glossy paper and framed in polished aluminium to create a slowed down version of the original – a blocky rendering of its beautiful curves.
And while Monk does not directly reprise a piece by a given artist in The Life Sized Black (a Porsche for RH), it is indeed the connection between Richard Hamilton and his car that Monk handles with trademark irony. Demystification or derision of the artist figure is a constant in Monk’s practice. The iconic Porsche car, the fact that it may have belonged to a famous artist, and the effect of breaking its image down into pixels all create an ironic context which explores the contrast between the immediate accessibility of its image and its ungraspable deconstruction. The original function of representation is thus lost. The car disappears in its fragmentation, along with its owner, Richard Hamilton. The artist’s initial material has been narrowed down, shrunk to the impasse of the pixels.
Jonathan Monk’s art is truly unique and extraordinary; his practice simply blurs the line between conceptual art and other art movements. So, be sure not to miss this show at Blondeau & Cie. The exhibition is being organized on the occasion of Nuit des Bains – a unique art event in Geneva, organized by The Quartier des Bains Association, containing 9 galleries and 5 cultural institutions, aiming to encourage and promote contemporary art in Geneva, in particular in the Quartier des Bains area, which has become over the last few years a platform for contemporary art in Switzerland. The exhibition of Jonathan Monk entitled The Life Sized Black (a Porsche for RH) will be on view from March 17 until April 30, 2016 at Blondeau & Cie in Geneva.
Featured Image: Jonathan Monk - The Life Sized Black (a Porsche for RH) III, detail, 2016. DITONE ® Archival Pigment Print on Rauch MediaJet® PGC. 310FD High Gloss paper mounted on aludibond in polished aluminum frames with museum glass. Print: 146.4 x 122 cm. 57.6 x 48 in. Framed: 148.4 x 124 cm. 58.4 x 48.8 in. Edition of 3 (+1 AP). This work is accompanied by a certificate signed by the artist. All Images courtesy of Blondeau & Cie
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