JÜRGEN KLAUKE | Hintergrundrauschen

Opening reception: Saturday, 25 November 2017, 4pm. 

The artist will be present.
Introduction: Prof. Dr. Stephan Berg, Intendant Kunstmuseum Bonn
Opening hours: Tue-Fri 11-6, Sat 12-6 and by appointment

Galerie Thomas Zander is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of works by Jürgen Klauke. Klauke is a pioneer of conceptual, staged photography and has been a formative influence on its strategies of performance and body art since the early 1970s. He often puts his body at the center of his formally composed tableaus and sequences, using it as subject and vessel to test the boundaries between life and art, to challenge conventional social roles and gender identities. In 1977 and 1987 Klauke participated in documenta, his work was included in Harald Szeemann’s special exhibition Aperto 80 at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and he is recognised as one of the most important contemporary artists in Germany today. 

Jürgen Klauke’s intermedia approach to art does not emphasise the moment of integration, but that of friction, of being caught in the middle, and represents a singluar position in contemporary art. 
His series B (Brancusi Block) from 2017 is featured in an exhibition for the first time and calls to mind the question of the boundaries between life and art, which the classical avant-garde sought to dissolve. Citing forms and motifs of the avant-garde, the voice of critical art, toilet bowls are balanced on top of each other in this work, forming a beautifully shaped column. In the meticulously composed images, the smooth white surfaces shine in perfect lighting against the black background. The large scale prints lend a sculptural dimension to the photographs, which—despite its absence in the picture—draw on the body as a reference point. Inevitably, this reference calls attention to the mundane quality of the objects they owe to the profanity of human existence. The trivial and the sublime fail to merge. Art and life do not form a continuum, instead Klauke’s works propose an aesthetics of extraction and disruption. In his early sequence of photographs Dr. Müllers Sex-Shop oder so stell ich mir die Liebe vor (1977) he showcases the human body with its needs and flaws. It is not through self expression and originality that the artist explores the complexity of love, but through readymade and performance. Intimacy is performed in ambiguous gender roles and with a grotesque oversupply of plastic props and sex toys to a point where hysteria and boredom seem almost indistinguishable in the scenes. Only love remains elusive in this materialistic battle. The work ironically confronts domestic ideals of a bourgeois consumer society as radically as the existential questions: “I address the irresolvable conflict with ourselves, the ‘beauty in failure’ that goes with it, which if you don’t go insane makes our existence quite entertaining.” (Jürgen Klauke) The external perception of identity, the mechanisms of identification, are the subject of the photographic tableau Das menschliche Antlitz im Spiegel soziologisch-nervöser Prozesse (1976/1977). From a dozen black and white portraits resembling passport photos a man in stereotypical shirt and tie looks at the viewers smiling or stern-faced. Captions tell us the murderer smiles, the lunatic smiles, the civil servant does not. In fact it is always the same two shots. The attributions are completely arbitrary, the photographs have no value as evidence. While the republic’s search for RAF-terrorists is conducted via mass data processing for the first time in the mid-1970s, Jürgen Klauke analyses overcome notions of social roles. This is where the complicity of the medium in propagating identities becomes particularly apparent. The work brings two intertwining developments of the 19th century to mind, photography and physiognomy, whose study promised insights into people’s characters and souls: based on photography a register of criminal delinquents was compiled, hysteria was invented as a mental illness and facial expressions catalogued by stimulating face muscles with electrodes. This mode of identifying and categorising the bourgeois subject is booming and Klauke meets it with a staging of identity, exposing it as pure construct. In an even more condensed manner, Klauke investigates the paradox of not letting oneself be fixed by photography in the sequence of portraits Philosophie der Sekunde from 1976, where he again appears as both author and actor. He performs a series of facial expressions, postures of the head and body, gestures overlap, outlines blur. The camera is able to make a moment visible that lasts only a millisecond and would usually escape the naked eye. By splitting the second, Klauke still manages to defy definition in favour of a plurality of self-staging and identity shifts, which the artists negotiates with himself and the viewers. In the power networks of the media, society and state apparatuses, the human being time and again prevails as a disruptive factor in Klauke’s oeuvre.

Jürgen Klauke, born in 1943, has lived and worked in Cologne since 1968 and taught at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne between 1994 and 2008. His work has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions, for example at Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Bundeskunsthalle Bonn, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg and Tate Liverpool. Klauke’s work is represented in public collections that include Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Kunstsammlung NRW/K21, Düsseldorf, Centre Pompidou, Paris, Kunstmuseum Bern and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others.

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