Barely recovered from Venetian art overload, we arrived in Zurich just in time for Galerie Eva Presenhuber’s dinner for Ugo Rondinone’s show, “Soul.” The Zurich show is a continuation of his stone tribe of humanoid figures, first seen in New York City’s Rockefeller Center and Barbara Gladstone Gallery. A long time artistic hangout, the elegant restaurant Kronhalle boasts a collection with works by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and many Swiss artists.
Contemporary Art Weekend, when over two dozen galleries opened, coincided with Zurich’s Family pride celebration, so artists and alternative families shared the Lowenbrau streets.
Cameron Jamie’s comprehensive solo show at Kuntshalle Zurich covers his twenty year career, ranging from early staged photographs to his shamanic masks. Ceramic and painted sculptures resembled tribal totems. Photography, drawings, sculpture, and films invite the audience into Jamie’s world of magical subcultures.
Other enigmatic work included the installation of American artist Trisha Donnelly’s multi media show “april.” Jay De Feo’s virtuoso drawings, photos and one knock out abstract painting offer a great introduction to the pioneering female San Francisco artist. Both shows are at Eva Presenhuber.
Halfway between Zurich and Basel is the contemporary Swiss museum, Aargauer Kunsthaus (museum in German). Their current show “Rhythm In It” included 37 artists working in film, video, installation, and kinetic works. Hans Richter, Jean Tingueley, Stan Douglas, and Christian Marclay are included, as is Swiss national treasure Ferdinand Holder. Rondinone’s target paintings are an additional highlight.
Twenty four hours too early for the big Art Basel opening, we headed to LISTE, where 66 galleries presented work of artists under 40. Strong painting thrived in Anna-Lise Coste’s jazzy calligraphic black and white works at Nogueras Blanchard of Spain, and Dependance of Brussels highlighted Richard Aldrich’s gestural canvases. London’s Ibid Gallery went with a solo show of Rallou Panagrotuou’s intriguing assemblages.
A quick shuttle ride away, Volta 9 focused on new and emerging artists. I ran into my Noho New York neighbor, Kathy Grayson of The Hole, who showed abstractions, including the trippy work of Holton Rower. Galleria Marie Laure Fleish of Rome featured drawings, and I especially liked the cosmological mappings of Nikolaus Ganstere. I loved the” Choose Your Religion” piece by Stoneman, represented by Unguided Basel and appreciated him granting me another chance as my first hit yielded Scientology, which I was then able to exchange for Shinto. Charlie Smith of London presented artistic responses to Freudian discordance, with a wonderful Eric Maniguad drawing and a haunting John Stark painting. Everyone grabbed one of the chic black Volta carryalls and vied for service at the more then decent outdoor restaurant. Reports are that Volta did a brisk business, despite rumors of a smaller then hoped for crowd.
All of this led to the extravaganza of Art Unlimited, curated this year by Gianni Jetzer, director of New York’s Swiss Institute. The cavernous space is where galleries debut enormous projects. Brazilian artist Lygia Clark’s gargantuan aluminum plate sculpture, “Fantastic Architecture,” dominated the room, the actualization of a project conceived years forty years before.
“Artichoke Underground” commences with a hillock of used clothes. The mazelike journey takes viewers to an artists studio, a printing press room, a take out restaurant, all festooned with quirky details. Presented by London’s Marlborough Gallery, Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman have honed their adventurous installations to a space altering fantasy.
Less thrilling to me was Gavin Brown’s show of Rob Pruitt’s “Not yet titled”, candy colored faces that dominated three walls. I couldn’t help comparing them to the Boetti poster of Urban Indians made in Rome forty years before and hanging in my Italian bedroom wall.
“Untitled (Two Into One Becomes Three)” is the largest painting ever shown in Basel. Matt Mullican, the California born artist who lives and works in Berlin, is represented by Zurich’s Mai 36 and Berlin’s Klosterfelde. The seventy part yellow and black canvas, replete with atomic diagrams and scientific imagery arrestingly depicts mind and body. Piotr Uklanski, presented jointly by Gagosian Gallery and Massimo De Carlo created “Open”, a monumental textile installation with weirdly appealing tonsils dangling in a humanoid mouth. Meshed in a web of obsidian threads, a burned piano and chairs “In Silence” by Chiharu Shiota was presented by Galerie Daniel Templeton.
The journey back to Italy unexpectedly rivaled the visual opulence of Art Basel. Besides a quick detour through the snow capped mountains and crystalline skies of the Alps, I was lucky enough to visit the Emma Kunz Centre in Wuernlos, Switzerland. The Swiss mystic was as renowned for her psychic healing abilities as her geometrically profound drawings. I first knew of her work from a group show curated by Ugo Rondinone, and now her drawings are included in the momentous Encyclopedic Palace curated by Massimiliano Gioni in Venice. Along with the museum that houses her sacred geometrical drawings, visitors can walk into the Roman quarry, a grotto Kunz considered her personal vortex where she went to “recharge her batteries” and “be in the light.”
Words: Ilka Scobie Photos: Sylvain Deleu © Artlyst 2013