I Have Seen the Future
September 15 - (extended until) January 6, 2013
The solo show on Kunstverein Hamburg’s upper floor marks the first extensive appraisal of the oeuvre of Austrian artist Kiki Kogelnik (1935-1997) in Germany. The exhibition continues Kunstverein’s series of enquiries into positions of feminist art at the time and in circles associated with Pop Art, which began in 2011 with the solo show on Evelyne Axell (1935-1972). As a contemporary art institution, the Kunstverein’s mission is not only to present young art but also to place present-day artistic output in a historical context. This is especially true in cases where art historians and exhibition makers have (largely) ignored something that – from our vantage point – is an important position. To this extent, the growing attention paid to female positions is a key area, in which exhibitions can shed new light on artistic output from the 1960s and 1980s from a present-day perspective and elucidate the blind sports in the process. Especially since their works often cannot be pigeonholed into the customary categories, and Kiki Kogelnik’s oeuvre provides an outstanding example of this.
The majority of the 90 exhibits compiled here can be considered "Pop-related works", whereby the exhibition focuses on the 1960s and thus on a relatively short but intense period in Kiki Kogelnik’s oeuvre. The pictorial worlds on canvas or paper are strongly influenced by Pop Art, though she in fact developed her own subjects and visual vocabulary, which she then pursued for a further 30 years and realized using different media. Kogelnik relocated to New York in the early 1960s and her personal acquaintance with countless Pop artists and her familiarity with the social debates of the day form the backdrop to her artistic effort. Our focus on this timeframe helps to structure the different currents in her work as well as highlighting central stylistic features and emphatic and expressive artistic forms.
"I’m not involved with Coca Cola … I’m involved in the technical beauty of rockets, people flying in space and people becoming robots. When you come here from Europe it is so fascinating … like a dream of our time. The new ideas are here, the materials are here, why not use them?" This statement by Kogelnik pinpoints many of her recurrent themes: rockets, planets, bombs, machines, spaceships and robots. She was fascinated by technical progress and the promises of space travel, although she did not fail to emphasize the political/military aspects. In her sculpture "Bombs in Love" (1962), which shows two bombs linked by a chain and a heart, and painted, the armaments race during the Cold War is visible, that so-called "mutually assured destruction".
It was not only topics of the day that found their way into her works, but also materials taken from the consumer world of the US. She swiftly replaced the gestural expression of painting with the slogan "art comes from artificial". She used strident, luminescent neon colors; her themes were frequently built on colored grids of dots in line with the Benday dots encountered in Pop Art; she applied the paint very evenly, using spray cans for example, and often relied on vinyl or other plastic foils. Her works on canvas increasingly morphed into assemblages that protruded well beyond the borders of the image and featured combinations of different materials.
What are quite literally multi-layered pieces toy with their surface aesthetics created by the colored, silver or reflective foils. Therefore the decision to present Kogelnik’s oeuvre on reflective foil in the exhibition space corresponds to the works themselves.
Human limbs such as arms, legs and hands (the hand with the wristwatch represent the artist herself) repeatedly crop up in Kogelnik’s art. In motion they seem to float in an airless space. Kogelnik uses stencils to transplate the human figure into her pictures. To this end, friends and acquaintances were asked to lie down on strips of paper on her studio floor. She painted their outlines, which she then used to make the stencils. Toward the end of the 1960s she advanced the technique of making "cut-outs" and transformed these into sculptures. In her "Hangings", the outlines of a body are now transposed onto colored vinyl foil, cut out, and then hung over clothes hangers or rods – and therefore somehow resemble skin that has been peeled off someone.
To accompany the exhibition Snoeck Verlag is publishing an extensive catalog with essays by Angela Stief, Annette Tietenberg and Florian Waldvogel.
The exhibition is organized with the support by the Kiki Kogelnik Foundation.