BERNAR VENET | 60 YEARS OF SCULPTURE, PAINTING & PERFORMANCE

29 JANUARY – 30 MAY 2022

On view from January 29, 2022 in Berlin, this dive into all facets of the internationally-renowned French artist’s 60-year oeuvre will showcase over 150 works across the reappropriated Tempelhof Airport’s hangars 2 and 3.

Bernar Venet, 1961—2021. 60 Years of Sculpture, Painting & Performance is the internationally-renowned French artist’s largest and most comprehensive retrospective in the world to date, spanning the entirety of his complex and widely diverse oeuvre as a sculptor, painter, performance artist – and radical conceptual artist. The exhibition will bring together over 150 works, reflecting the artist’s uncompromising approach and natural obsession for constantly shaping his environment through his art. On view from January 29 – May 30, 2022, the show is the first in a series of exhibitions to unfold over the next two years in the Kunsthalle Berlin across the spectacular hangars 2 and 3 of Berlin’s emblematic Tempelhof Airport.

Organized by the Stiftung für Kunst and Kultur, curated by Walter Smerling, Bernar Venet, 1961—2021 charts the trajectory of the artist’s career from his very beginnings in his studio, which was made available to him by the French army during his military service, and which form the cornerstone of a body of work that has repeatedly called itself into question. Venet has consistently affirmed his concept of art as an attitude which extends far beyond the formal and the spatial. His aspirations to this day are firmly rooted in the unbounded desire to simply never accept the world as it is, instead lending it his own perspective. Landscapes and spaces suddenly assume a new dimension, allowing the observer to differently view - and feel - the energetically charged space in which his signature steel lines, arcs and angles are installed.

The exhibition is a personal homage to Dr. Paul Wember, as Venet pays tribute to the director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld – the very first to grant the artist a solo exhibition in 1970 at a time when no gallery had shown his work outside of group exhibitions. One of the exhibition’s focuses is Venet’s work from 1966 to 1970 – his conceptual years in the United States – revealing the extreme radicality of an artistic approach which gave him international recognition at a very young age. Since 1979, and the fabrication of his Indeterminate Lines, his work has taken a turn towards the formalist. In addition to his wood reliefs, he has developed a unique steel sculpture style which can be seen today in capitals across the continents. For the show, Venet will use the sculptural elements of his large-scale installation at the Louvre Lens, France to specially conceive four different installations made of Arcs, Angles and Straight Lines unfolding across Tempelhof Airport’s spacious, yet seldom invested warehouses.

In tandem with his sculptural work, the exhibition expands Venet’s complete painting work, from his first 1961 Goudron (Tar) paintings to his most recent, Equations and Saturations, the textual and mathematical symbols of which become the defining elements over richly colored backgrounds. With these paintings, Venet rejects formalism as much as the idea of abstraction. While abstract art commonly refers to what is non-figurative, these new works function within another category. By presenting what are usually defined as “mathematical objects” (numbers, figures, spaces, functions, relations, structures), the works attain a maximum level of abstraction: the non-referential is pushed to its extreme limits. In sum, contrasting it to abstract art where a symbolism of form or color is implied, Venet offers a maximal self-referential system, which only a mathematical equation can offer.

Throughout the course of exhibition Venet will activate the space with on-site performances, including Domino Effondrement, first performed in 2021 as part of the Venet Foundation’s annual exhibition (Le Muy, France), in which he uses a forklift to trigger the collapse of a seemingly random array of corten steel arcs – weighing over 30 tons – leaving them scattered across the floor, as order and chance grow inextricably bound together in this clearly visible accident. Also presented are iterations of The Steel Bar and the Pictorial Memory of the Gesture performance, which use the line as a tool to intersect the mediums of performance, painting, and sculpture. Using a steel beam coated in paint, Venet leaves the trace of the movement of the bar on the exhibition walls. Calling to mind the subtle asymmetry of inkblots used during The Rorschach Test, the work pushes the boundaries of Venet’s oeuvre by demonstrating how the body can be used as a tool to bring the mathematical concept of the line to life.

Unerringly direct, calculating, convinced of the emotionality and of the intention to symbiotically marry his existence with his creative aspirations, Venet once again renders his ultimately deeply optimistic aspiration not to reinvent the world, but to alter his viewers’ perception of it.

The exhibition follows the presentation "Diversity United. Contemporary European Art" in the former Tempelhof Airport from June 9 to October 10, 2021. Following its successful joint collaboration, Tempelhof Projekt GmbH and the Foundation for Art and Culture have agreed to work together and present future exhibitions in the Kunsthalle Berlin at hangars 2 and 3 of the former Tempelhof airport, initially for the next two years. The project is realized with the generous support of CG Elementum AG and its CEO Christoph Gröner.

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