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WESTLICHT SHOWS ARAKI'S LATEST WORKS AND THE EXTENSIVE PHOTOBOOK OEUVRE OF THE EXCEPTIONAL JAPANESE ARTIST
Nobuyoshi Araki (*1940) is one of the most influential contemporary Japanese artists. His work attracts attention far beyond the classical photographic public, and time and again it is also a source of controversy.
Exclusively and for the first time, WestLicht and OstLicht will show photographs from Araki's latest series Paradise, created in 2020. The large-format still lifes, in which Araki repeately picks up motifs from past creative periods, are placed in the context of his publications and works from six decades.
In both exhibitions, ARAKISS shows the development of Araki's work over a period of more than 50 years, from his first photographs to the famous Sentimental Journey series and his much-discussed bondage photographs to his latest project. With his erotic depictions, Araki drew on the centuries-old Japanese tradition of the shunga - a fine selection of these explicit woodblock prints from the Diethard Leopold Collection will provide a comparative view with Araki's photography.
The exhibitions were conceived in close cooperation with the Tokyo-based artist, who has been a friend of the house and Peter Coeln since his first WestLicht exhibition in 2006. "I am delighted that in this year's anniversary year we are able to dedicate this comprehensive show of works to such an important, exceptional artist and close friend of our house," says Coeln, whose photography venue, founded in 2001, is celebrating its twentieth birthday this year.
The common thread of the exhibition is Araki's books, which occupy a central role in his oeuvre. Many of his masterpieces are coveted collector's items today and impressively illustrate how the medium of photography can find its congenial complement in the medium of books. With the presentation of more than 300 volumes from the OstLicht Collection, the exhibition is the most comprehensive retrospective to date of this oeuvre, which is unique in its scope and complexity.
In order to do justice to Araki's tireless artistic drive, ARAKISS has been conceived as a double exhibition. Parallel to the WestLicht exhibition, OstLicht Gallery will provide a further insight into Araki's cosmos.
The monumental series Kinbaku Shamaki, an eight-metre-long tableau of 53 nude photographs painted over with acrylic, will also be on view. This is Araki's largest work and, like most of the exhibits on display, is owned by the OstLicht Collection.
The exhibitions are curated by Hisako Motoo, who has worked closely with Araki in Tokyo for thirty years, Fabian Knierim and Michael Kollmann and will remain open until summer 2021.
NOBUYOSHI ARAKI. ARAKISS
PART I – WESTLICHT. SCHAUPLATZ FÜR FOTOGRAFIE
PART II – OSTLICHT. GALERIE FÜR FOTOGRAFIE
Photo Art 1950–2000
To kick off the anniversary year - WestLicht is celebrating its 20th birthday this year - we are pleased to reopen the museum from 13 February on with the exhibition Padhi Frieberger.
Padhi Frieberger (1931-2016), self-proclaimed outsider of the Austrian art scene and one-person movement, found in photography an ideal medium for his multifaceted practice uniting art and life. With more than 100 photographic works from the OstLicht collection - supplemented by mail art - WestLicht is showing the most comprehensive presentation to date of this so important part of his oeuvre.
Almost without exception, Frieberger's photographs are meticulously arranged by the artist, their aesthetics, which sometimes seem spontaneous, are subject to a clear direction. In terms of motifs, the spectrum ranges from symbolically charged stagings to portraits of his colleagues - including Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Oswald Wiener or André Heller - to photographic re-enactments of his own object art. Frieberger's photographic works already met with a great response among his contemporaries: their singular visual language was appreciated by grand theorist Peter Weibel as well as by Austria's most important representative of life photography, Franz Hubmann.
The exhibition is a cooperation with the OstLicht Collection, with additional loans from Konzett Gallery and Brigitte Groihofer.
PHOTO ART 1950-2000
Padhi Frieberger experienced his first artistic impulses in the post-war period, in the context of the Wiener Art-Club as well as the avant-garde movements of the Wiener Gruppe and the Actionists. He was a present figure in the Viennese art scene(s) until the late 20th century. Apart from his participation as an ecstatic drummer in various musical formations, however, he never belonged to any grouping, but remained a critical outsider, even to the subculture. Frieberger found the conventions of the art establishment to be overbearing, which deeply contradicted his claim to autonomy. Instead, he pursued the utopia of the avant-garde, to let art merge into concrete life practice. He saw himself not only as a pioneer of art, but also as a pioneer of lifestyle, strictly rejecting alcohol and nicotine, for example, eating a vegetarian diet and using a bicycle whenever possible for commuting.
As early as the 1950s, in a continuation of Dadaist montage techniques, he created his own assemblages and material collages from found wood or metal fragments, which pointed ahead to works by the Nouveaux Réalistes. He further developed their structural principle in many directions. For example, he incorporated objects of daily use, written documents and pictures that reflected the reality of everyday life and society, but also painterly and sculptural informal elements that partly anticipate the aesthetics of Franz West's Passstücke. He sent cards collaged from photocopies, newspaper clips and selected stamps, partly re-photographed, to acquaintances as mail art avant la lettre. Here he propagated the concerns of the ecological and peace movements and referred to political debates. Above all, however, he polemicised against "Pseudokünstler und Schaumschläger" (pseudo-artists and boasters). He forcefully proclaimed true artistry, as he saw it in Vincent van Gogh, for example, and insisted on his unquestionable sensitivity, moral integrity and uncompromising authenticity, which also included an ascetic life as a misunderstood artist. Frieberger himself embodied and cultivated this myth astonishingly convincingly.
He used photography in different forms, ranging from portraits of artist friends and "straight" shots of his life partners and environments to subjective photography and abstract colour and material studies. All this found its way into his montages as well as into his photographic stagings, in which Frieberger's artistic position found its most fruitful medium: a pictorial space that could be shaped on several levels, in which he could combine his exuberant aesthetic concerns and thus contextualise and convey them in a self-determined way. After precise planning, he put together arrangements which, in the photographic record, can be regarded as an artistic articulation and at the same time as a reflection of their authentic origins: Tableaux that always refer to the real life contexts of the author, even if they were not conceived as self-portraits. These included, for example, his wardrobe, from which he drew costumes for fellow performers.
In addition to himself, as the most important protagonist of his artist photography, Frieberger's photographic productions often feature children, who ideally portrayed the concept of creation as playful-serious exploration. Poetically designed scenarios were created through subtle interventions on trees, hay bales or ruinous walls, which appear in the photographs as if art, nature and old building fabric had grown harmoniously. Similarly, he placed his photographs and even more frequently his objects in the Lower Austrian landscape, also merging surroundings and artworks through double exposures. He wrote catchwords as integral parts of the composition on matching (wall) surfaces, which meant that as work titles they were safe from any misleading transcription. While preparing his estate, Frieberger finally began to determine even the framing of his photographs down to the smallest detail. The majority of the photographic part of his oeuvre defined by him was taken over by the OstLicht photo collection after his death and is now being exhibited for the first time.