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16 Sep 2010

John M Armleder Lights the Way - Lokremise St.Gallen

John M Armleder in St. Gallen in year 2000

John M Armleder Lights the Way
An exhibition organised by Kunstmuseum St.Gallen
at Lokremise St.Gallen


Exhibition: 12 Sept. - 07 Nov. 2010
Mo - Sat: 13h - 20h, Sun: 11h - 18h

Kunstmuseum St.Gallen
+41 71 242 06 71

Lokremise St.Gallen
Grünbergstrasse 7
9000 St. Gallen

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John M Armleder Lights the Way
Lokremise St.Gallen 12 September – 7 November 2010

All I do is what others have already done.
John M Armleder

With a nonchalance that is positively provocative, the Geneva-based artist John M Armleder (*1948) has created an extensive oeuvre, carrying on the traditions of Modernism with great virtuosity. He has redefined the vocabulary of its now hackneyed historical forms for contemporary use, while elegantly and subversively eluding formal classification. His work, which goes back to the days of the Fluxus movement in the 1960s, has always been performative, as demonstrated by spectacular productions over the past years, for instance, in the Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in 1998 and the Kunstverein Hannover/ MAMCO Geneva in 2006. His productions extend generous invitations to the public to participate in an event, in which artistic gesture, space and time become one, having been distilled into one single all- embracing spectacle. This said, it makes perfect sense to invite John M Armleder as the first artist to light the way for the art zone in the Lokremise St.Gallen and, along with it, the new cultural centre.

Light is a crucial medium in Armleder's productions. In some of his now famous Furniture Sculptures, begun in the 1980s and elaborated in the 1990s, the use of light substantially enhances the visual impact of the objects, putting them in the limelight both figuratively and literally. But by the time he started making his expansive installations with revolving disco balls and cheerfully twitching light machines, reminiscent of the 1970s disco scene, light had become the predominant element – as it also has in countless works consisting of fluorescent neon tubes in a variety of colours. The latter are laid out on the floor or arranged as compact clusters of light. In total, they generate a colourful array of light that bounces off the walls of the neutral white cube, casting multiple shadows and giving viewers an unusual, new way to experience the classical gallery.

Light, an indispensable element in exhibiting and perceiving fine art, becomes a malleable working material in Armleder's light pieces, often as playful gestures that transform the gallery into an iridescent space of light. Although the fluorescent tubing inevitably evokes the heroic light installations of American minimalist Dan Flavin, Armleder's variable accumulations of tubing placed on the floor are a far cry from Flavin's stringent, strictly structured compositions with their meticulously orchestrated light effects. Armleder's work goes beyond the autonomy of the work of art inscribed in the tradition of Modernism, for it incorporates complex relations from outside the art context as well. For instance, pulsating nightlife resonates in the artist's use of collared light, drawing attention to the rich diversity of visual phenomena as well as the triviality of profane appearances. As so often in Armleder's work, one cannot help being astonished by the lighthearted ease of his artistic interventions and the ironically refined superimposition of art and mass culture.

With consistent inconsistency, John M Armleder probes a concept of art that ceaselessly calls into question the long-standing values advanced by modern art. His trailblazing contribution to contemporary art is underscored by an artistic practice that has substantially shaped the strategy of the crossover, blurring the distinction between high art and department store. The characteristic mixture of art and life, reminiscent of such traditions as that propagated by Marcel Duchamp or pop art, was manifest early on in the performances of the Ecart group and later acquired positively physical shape in the Furniture Sculptures. With incomparable lightheartedness, Armleder unites art style and lifestyle, confronting the now bankrupt vocabulary of historical Modernism with contemporary mass culture. The artist's "juggling acts between triviality and refined aesthetics" (Bernhard Bürgi) are not, however, reduced to aimless play; instead they engage in sophisticated discourse on the game rules of art and art operations, inquiring into the very meaning and purpose of artistic activities. As Armleder puts it himself, "Exactly that is the incentive behind making a work of art, which is something that always astonishes me."

And exactly that is what John M Armleder will do in the new exhibition gallery of the Lokremise: an opening exhibition that will light the way with a spectacular production in which art is experienced as a spatial, sculptural, intermedial, all-embracing event.

Curator: John M Armleder

Usually I think very hard about a project and then make something entirely different. In the process I forget what I'm doing and don't know what it is that I end up with.
John M Armleder

The new cultural centre Lokremise St.Gallen is very close to the main station in St.Gallen and will open on Sunday, 12 September 2010. Kunstmuseum St.Gallen, Theater und Konzert St.Gallen and the art cinema Kinok will set new cultural accents in Switzerland's largest surviving circular depot for locomotives.

With the generous support of the Canton and City of St.Gallen, Stiftung Lokremise and Galerie Andrea Caratsch, Zürich