Your Guide to Amsterdam Art Weekend 2018

From David Claerbout’s ‘rigged’ election to Jimmy Robert’s homage to stanley brouwn, the best shows and openings for the annual art event

BY Carina Bukuts in Critic's Guides | 22 NOV 18

David Claerbout, the “confetti” piece, 2018, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam

David Claerbout, ‘the “confetti” piece’
Annet Gelink Gallery
23 November 2018 – 5 January 2019

The room is filled with joy. Well-dressed couples embrace each other, clap their hands and look at the ceiling where shiny confetti rains slowly down. David Claerbout’s latest video the “confetti” piece (2018) captures a moment at an election night party in the United States. But what first appears joyous soon turns sinister – as in much of Claerbout’s work, the devil is in the detail: while all the other guests celebrate, a young boy silently screams trying to protect himself from the falling confetti as if in mortal danger. Suddenly the colourful particles lose their lightness and a gravitational force seems to pull the confetti to the ground. Using digital modification techniques, Claerbout’s videos reflect upon time and its manipulation. In this regard, the quotation marks in the title already hint to the artist’s interest in the margins between appearance and reality – the confetti pieces are actually computer generated. Before the artist produces his elaborate videos, he usually starts by plotting the story on paper, scene by scene. At Annet Gelink’s project space, The Bakery, one can follow how the artist turns analogue into digital by looking at the drawings. In addition, the Eye Filmmuseum have invited Claerbout to give a talk on ‘dark optics’, a phrase he coined to describe image-production as a process which increasingly takes place on computers rather than through the camera’s lens.

Lily van der Stoker, I Am an Artwork, I Am Three Years Old, 2004, acrylic paint on wall and mixed media. Courtesy: the artist

Lily van der Stokker, ‘Friendly Good’
Metahaven, ‘Earth’
Stedelijk Museum
Until 24 February 2018

‘Friendly Good’, the title of Lily van der Stokker’s current exhibition at Stedelijk might be the first two words that spring to mind when looking at her works. Pink clouds, pale pastel flowers and phrases such as ‘I’m an art work and I’m 3 years old’ plaster the walls. But what first appears as a mural for a young girl’s bedroom, conceals sly roots in conceptual art history. Van der Stokker combines a visual language that is regarded to be typically feminine with phrases such as ‘Organized & Tidy’ to question the role of women, in the art world and at home.

Metahaven’s ‘Earth’ marks another first survey on view at Stedelijk. Four galleries of the museum are filled with the Dutch artist collective’s immersive video installations while another room focuses on their textile and print works from the past couple of years. Like many of their works, the centrepiece of the exhibition, Eurasia (Questions on Happiness) (2018), combines storytelling with digital superstructure and investigates the technological intersections between Asia and Europa.

On 25 November, two more shows open at the museum: Raquel van Haver presents a new series of monumental paintings of the industrial area of Bijlmeer in Amsterdam in her show ‘Spirits of the Soil’ and ‘Freedom of Movement’ unites artists working in the Netherlands within the field of time-based media featuring, among others, Kate Cooper, Yael Bartana and Rory Pilgrim.  

Marliz Frencken, Gesluierde Vrouw Met Baby (Veiled Woman With Baby), 1991, oil on canvas. Courtesy: the artist and Althius Hofland Fine Arts, Amsterdam

‘Fabric Faces, Powder Phrases’
Althuis Hofland Fine Arts
22 November – 5 January 2018

‘We have not yet heard enough, if anything, about the female gaze. About the scorch of it.’ Althuis Hofland Fine Arts must agree with writer Maggie Nelson on that. For its upcoming exhibition, the gallery invited seven women artists to a group show that focuses on the construct and deconstruction of female identity. Drag and genderqueer icon Vaginal Davis presents a small series of make-up paintings for which she swapped brush and oil colours for mascara and hair conditioner. While using beauty products and elixirs strongly associated with femininity, Davis conquers two stereotypes at once, combining the image of a typically male painter with one of a clichéd woman. But a closer look at the works’ titles reveals that Davis’s make-up compositions are more than just abstract colourful combinations, they also pay tribute to women of colour the artist admired, for example, TV stars Louise Beavers and Judy Pace. Sophie Lee also dedicated her work to a woman she looks up to: her video I found manna and I ate it (2018) is loosely centred on the German Benedictine Abbess, composer and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179 CE). The piece explores Bingen’s visions in relation to contemporary ideas about a female sociality.

Sam Samiee, Copernicus (detail), acrylic on paper. Courtesy: the artist 

Gabriel Lester, ‘Shake a Face’
Sam Samiee, Casino Copernicus’
Galerie Fons Welters
23 November 2018 – 12 January 2019

For 20 years, Galerie Fons Welters has supported young artists by following a strategy of double presentations: while the gallery uses the main space to present works by artists from its regular programme, the front space is always dedicated to a young position. During Amsterdam Art Weekend the gallery presents two exhibitions by Sam Samiee and Gabriel Lester. Samiee, who took part in this year’s Berlin Biennale, aims to unite Western visual culture with the literary culture of the East. His installations, often consisting of paintings and objects, break with the iconography of traditional European painting and are instead based on a Persian concept of combining ethics and aesthetics. For his solo show ‘Casino Copernicus’ he combines the psychoanalytic concept of ‘the unconscious’, referring to theories by Jean Laplanche and Julia Kristeva, with the idea of painting as a gamble. In the main space, Gabriel Lester’s ‘Shake a Face’ gives an overview of several series of works the artist has created over the past couple of years that all focus on the concept of metamorphosis in relation to contemporary society.

Shezad Dawood, Plymouth Sound (Cold War Archive) II, 2018, silkscreen, acrylic, spray paint on textile. Courtesy: the artist and HE.RO, Amsterdam; photograph: Peter Tijhuis

Shezad Dawood, ‘Leviathan: Memories of the Future Pt. 2’
Until 22 December 2018

‘Leviathan: Memories of the Future Pt. 2’ is part of Shezad Dawood’s multi-part series Leviathan which was launched at Palazzo Canonica during last year’s Venice Biennale. The large-scale project consists of a ten-part film, a series of fictional texts as well as paintings and sculptures that will all unfold over the next few years until the final episode which will be presented in 2020. Leviathan interweaves mass migration with climate change and specifically investigates the migration route from North Africa to Italy. HE.RO co-commissioned and now presents the fourth episode of Leviathan titled Jamila (2018). In addition to the video, the gallery space is filled with seascape paintings, a resin sculpture of the sea monster Leviathan itself and wall texts. The exhibition appears like a storyboard to the videos, an invitation to dive deeper into Dawood’s pool of ideas.

Iris Schomaker, Untitled, 2018, oil, crayon, charcoal and watercolour on paper. Courtesy: the artist and Reflex Amsterdam

Iris Schomaker. ‘Walking the Line’
Reflex Amsterdam
23 November 2018 – 12 January 2019

‘Drawing is like taking a line for a walk.’ The title of Iris Schomaker’s upcoming show ‘Walking the Line’ at Reflex Amsterdam seems to be a reference to Paul Klee’s famous quote. Looking at her works on paper, there is no doubt that Schomaker takes this approach seriously. The black and white figures she paints don’t appear to consist of flesh, but only of geometric formations and a contemplation of lines. But instead of taking the line for a walk and to draw and paint without any guidance, Schomaker always has a concrete setting in mind and walks the line in a particular direction. Her paintings are quiet and set in an atmosphere of solitude and absence. Hands are folded, crossed or hidden; bodies lean against walls, sit quietly on chairs or are asleep; faces are out of focus. Schomaker’s figures are out of place and detached from the environment they’re set in.  While figurative elements collide with painterly abstraction, it is the line that holds them both together.

Jimmy Robert, Untitled (Brouwn), 2015, mixed media. Courtesy: the artist and Stigter Van Doesberg, Amsterdam

Jimmy Robert, ‘Many shades of Brouwn’
Stigter Van Doesburg
23 November – 22 December 2018

In the late 1970s the term ‘person of colour’ was used by anti-racist activists, particularly in the US, to counter the condescending terminology attributed to non-white folk.  Noticing that the name of Dutch conceptual artist stanley brouwn (1935–2017) carries a sort of linguistic twist, matching the artist’s Suriname heritage, three years ago, Jimmy Robert integrated several works by the artist into his collage Untitled (Brouwn) (2015). Robert’s upcoming show, ‘Many shades of Brouwn’ at Stigter Van Doesburg, carries on the thought. For this exhibition the artist produced new installations and collages that respond to works by brouwn and try to explore whether brouwn’s being brown (Afro-Caribbean Dutch) influenced his art of absence and his desire to remain invisible.

Other events

• Once again, the famous Rijksakademie artist residency programme opens its doors for visitors to sneak into the studios of the current resident artists. This year you can, amongst others, knock on Nora Turato’s and Laura O’Neill’s doors at the academy.

• On 22–23 November, the contemporary arts centre De Appel, holds a series of talks, performances and lectures to explore the ‘give and take economy’ of the contemporary art system. Transpositions is curated by De Appel curatorial fellow Fadwa Naamna.

• As publishing becomes more and more important for artistic practices, a whole weekend dedicated to art would look pretty dull without the according book fair to accompany it. That’s why Looiersgracht 60 hosts Amsterdam’s first art book fair from 23 until 25 November. Printing Plant: Art Book Fair features independent publishers from all other world and a curated public programme.

• Pinkie Bowie is probably better known for its project space in Antwerp but on 24 November there’s a chance to see the artist collective perform at Joost Krijnen’s show ‘Picture the Paint’ at Gerhard Hofland

Amsterdam Art Weekend runs from 22 – 25 November 2018. 

Main image: Shezad Dawood, Island Pattern, 2017, neon. Courtesy: the artist and HE.RO, Amsterdam; photograph: Peter Tijhuis

Carina Bukuts is associate editor of frieze. She is based in Berlin, Germany.