As Swiss Art Fair Artgenève Opens its Doors, Your Guide to the Best Shows in Town

A handy selection of the exhibitions not to miss in institutions, commercial galleries and artist-run-spaces across Geneva

BY Yann Chateigné in Critic's Guides | 31 JAN 19

Matthew Lutz-Kinoy, ‘The Meadow’, 2018, installation view, Centre d'édition contemporaine, Geneva. Courtesy: Centre d’édition contemporaine, Geneva; photograph : © Sandra Pointet

Matthew Lutz-Kinoy: The Meadow
Centre d’édition contemporaine
October 12 – February 8

For ‘The Meadow’, the New York-born artist Matthew Lutz-Kinoy presents a series of twelve lithographs (‘Scrolls in the Wind’, 2018) produced in collaboration with Harry Burke, Sharon Hayes, Sophy Naess, Amy Sillman and Emily Sundblad. Though modest in scale, and with some prints exhibited unfinished, the lithographs set the tone of a show exploring themes of openness, formal relations and communities. Inspired by collaborations between modern painters and poets, the works evoke questions of tolerance, fluidity and friendship, under a kind of hedonist ballet of texts and pictures. Lutz-Kinoy considers the intersection of two polarities throughout the show: a semi-ironic classicism of form, and the genuine subversion of sensual iconography. The Meadow (2013), a large acrylic and a tempera painting on paper stages naked bodies and erotic flowers, connected by decorative motifs, revealing the painter’s virtuosity. Elsewhere, vertical works made from found papers are suspended from the ceiling. Decorated in black paint with figurative designs, the hangings show how a taste for ‘decadent’ aesthetics, for tradition, can become the signs and the promise of a future to come.

Sarah Margnetti, The Most Tendered Organ (From matress to curtains), 2018, velour patchwork, 2 x 1.4 m. Courtesy: the artist and Penthouse Art, Bruxelles; photograph: © Ludovic Beillard

Sarah Margnetti and Charlotte Herzig: TROPES
Ferme de la Chappelle
January 12 – February 24

There is a kind of magic in the way Swiss artists Sarah Margnetti and Charlotte Herzig take over the Ferme de la Chappelle, and its rustic, domestic and slightly out of date exhibition rooms. Following an invitation by Geneva-based curators’ group Collectif Détente, the two artists have produced large and site-specific wall paintings, patiently crafted and large enough to fill the entire space. Margnetti’s work, which juxtaposes fragments of human bodies (ears, butts) with pieces of furniture (rods and curtains), displays an uncanny eroticism and plays with the changing status of bodies and objects. Herzig’s acrylic wall paintings depict semi-abstract, organic and vegetal elements, reflecting on an inner landscape and animated by a vital, almost spiritual impulse. At the very end of the show Margnetti and Herzig’s  All of a sudden / It’s another self / Another vibration / It’s another state of seeing (2019) shows a hand that opens a curtain on a cosmic vortex. The thickness and the presence of Margnetti’s oil paint are placed beside the almost invisible materiality and passé tones of Herzig’s acrylic interventions. Through collaboration, each artist’s singularity is revealed.

‘Pattern, Decoration & Crime’, 2019, exhibition view,  MAMCO, Geneva. Courtesy: MAMCO, Geneva; photograph: Annik Wetter

Pattern, Decoration & Crime and Mai-Thu Perret
October 10 – February 2

‘Pattern, Decoration & Crime’, co-curated by Lionel Bovier, Franck Gautherot and Seungduk Kim, includes works by artists that were part of the Pattern & Decoration movement in the 1970’s and ‘80’s. In opposition to modernists’s reductivism and abstraction, the movement explored the possibilities of the decorative, used ‘minor’ forms of art, and disregarded traditions and techniques. The group, composed equally of women and men, critiqued male domination of the art scene. One of the most impressive pieces in the show at MAMCO is Betty Woodman’s Still Life Vase (1990), a painted object that plays with the ambiguity of its materiality, its decorative and domestic status, as well as its perversely regressive, seductive and old-fashioned colours. The most spectacular work in the exhibition is Robert Zakanitch’s Elephant Rose (1977–78), a painting that explodes the limits of taste by using acid colours, the faux-naïf repetition of a cheesy rose motif, and a canvas shaped to mimic the kitsch forms of 19th-century interior design. ‘Pattern, Decoration and Crime’ is not only a retrospective of the 20th-century movement: it also includes artists interested in the powers and politics of the decorative, such as Marc-Camille Chaimowicz and Lynda Benglis. In parallel, Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret’s retrospective interestingly relies on comparable questions – modernity, gender, traditions – while it responds with different answers, in relation to contemporary fictions, identities and technologies.

Alan Schmalz, Le vertige de Maldoc, 2019, photograph. Courtesy: the artist and Société des Arts, Geneva

Alan Schmalz: Le Vertige de Maldoc
Société des Arts
January 18 – February 16

The first works you see when you enter Alan Schmalz’s solo exhibiton ‘Le Vertige de Maldoc’ are Mains Basses sur la Ville (Hands Over the City, 2018), a collection of collages made out of watercolours. With microscopic attention to architectural details, the series depicts façades of soon-to-be-destroyed buildings in Marseilles designed by French urban planner Georges-Eugène Haussmann. This ‘archive’ refers to the institutional and economic powers that produced, then replaced, buildings while imposing a whole new ideology, structure and form over the old city. Schmalz’s exhibition, comprising only new works, is a meditation on power and architecture, control and display. ‘La Nouvelle Ecole d’Architecture’ (2018) is a series of minimal sculptures resembling architectural models made out of Ikea furniture remains placed into office shelves. As a whole, the exhibition points to the often-powerless populations that inhabit Marseilles today, and these constructions’ effects on their lives.

Sinae Yoo, ‘Guilt Trip’, 2019, exhibition view, Quark, Geneva. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Julien Gemaud

Sinae Yoo: Guilt Trip
January 18 – March 3

‘Guilt Trip’, by Korea-born artist Sinae Yoo, is based on a collection and arrangement of material illustrating current living conditions in a technology-dominated society. Comprising drawings, oversized wall-stickers and videos, the exhibition attempts to translate a global economy of image-making and pictures. Video installation Dancing Eyes (2017) edits together images of pleasure, guilt, alienation and conformity: footage of people hired to dance at the opening of stores in shopping malls in Seoul appears alongside horrific shots of convulsing animals that have been skinned alive and scenes from the 1996 arcade game Dancing Eyes, in which a woman is undressed by the players. A series of drawings on paper mix images appropriated from the arcade game and words that seem to be dancing on the surface of the work. A series of other works are even more free from meaning: in one, using the letters by ‘käa’ from Kägi fret, a famous Swiss biscuit, the artist creates an almost abstract, though concrete composition. Realized through accumulation and fragmentation of signs, it’s as if Yoo was looking for a language in which meaning would remain suspended. ‘Guilt Trip’ by Sinae Yoo is an experiment in immersing the viewer in a world in between.

‘Nothing is something (to an observer) TRANSIT (permission to pass through) à LIYH’, 2018, exhibition poster. Courtesy: LiveInYourHead, Geneva

Nothing is Something (To an Observer)’ and ‘TRANSIT (Traversée Autorisée)’
January 18 – February 2

‘Nothing is Something (To an Observer)’ and ‘TRANSIT (Traversée Autorisée)’ are exhibitions that rely on two distinct strategies in sharing artistic research outputs and displaying educational processes. ‘TRANSIT’, conceived by researcher and curator Doreen Mende as a complex theoretical atlas, articulates the variety of thematic and theoretical lines that are at work in the Critical Curatorial Cybermedia Master’s program, which Mende has supervised at Geneva School of Art and Design since September 2015. The show arranges, in the form of collective workspace, a vast and multilayered documentation, in which text, medias and archive remain the dominant curatorial tools.

Also on display is ‘Nothing is Something (To an Observer)’, conceived by critic Christophe Kihm during a workshop on observation techniques in science and the arts that took place at the Swiss Institute in Rome in summer 2018. Presented on one side of the main room of the show is a film by French artist Bertrand Dezoteux made with HEAD students in Rome. Appropriating conventions of Hollywood’s dinosaur movies, the film uses b-roll footage (showing the point of view of a ‘B’ camera on a set) to speculate on the existence of Dinosaurs in Rome (2018). On another wall, students Eva Zornio and Laura Spozio present Nothing is something (for an observer) (2018), a film documenting sessions in Villa Borghese’s park with exobiologist Caroline Freissinet and ethologist Marianne Heberlein, in which the two scientists study along with the students’ group the animal life of this unusual milieu. Synchronized by their soundtrack, the two films propose, in lieu of the display of the remains of a pedagogical experiment, a two-fold collective work of art.

Martin Wong, Xanax, 1991, acrylic on canvas 1.3  × 1.7 m. Courtesy: the artist’s estate and PPOW Gallery 

Truth and Consequences
January 18 – March 16

‘Hatch’ is a group show that marks Truth and Consequences’s reopening after a months-long closure. Curated by Mohamed Almusibli, the show takes inspiration from German biologist Jakob von Uexküll’s theories of the ‘milieu’; Von Uexküll postulated that every species observes the elements composing its environment depending on its particular needs and uses. The exhibition relies on the observations of the figure of the ‘monster’. Charles Irvin’s Memory Diagram (2008) introduces the curatorial themes of the show. His figurative painting didactically depicts the experience of not fitting within societal norms. Likewise, Strange Thing (2018) by Liz Craft, a wall sculpture in the shape of a grey, geometric and tentacular spider, stands as an image of a monstrous society. The limits of classification and the problems of being seen are present in Danny McDonald’s Searching For Reassuring Statistics Regarding Classical Proportions (2018), where we see an action figure of Michelangelo’s David (1504) in front of a microscope. These themes are also found in Hannah Quinlan & Rosie Hastings’s Get Yourself Clean (2018), featuring iconography of ‘butchness’ and of policewomen, suggesting the appropriation and forms of control of underground cultures. Xanax (1991), a painting by Martin Wong – a seminal figure of American art in the 1980s who died of AIDS in the late 1990s – is the masterpiece of the exhibition. Representing sick trees, connected by constellations of words referring to occidental drugs and oriental medicinal plants, the painting synthesizes several ideas that discretely act within the show: the representation of a societal disease, life in the margins and a cosmic connection with elsewhere.

Main image: ‘Pattern, Decoration and Crime’, 2019, installation view, MAMCO, Geneva. Courtesy: MAMCO, Geneva; photograph: Annik Wetter

Yann Chateigné is a curator and writer based in Berlin. He is an associate professor at Geneva School of Art and Design.