GERT & UWE TOBIAS
The visual language of Gert & Uwe Tobias is like a vibration between realms. It teeters on an imaginative edge between the contemporary and the archaic, the figurative and the abstract, portraiture and still life, the deeply alluring and the grotesque. For their fifth solo exhibition at rodolphe janssen, the Tobias brothers’ quirky play of opposites feels familiar, as if from a dream.
Engaging with the technique of xylography, the artistic duo’s woodcuts redevelop and subvert this ancient craft for their own conceptual ambitions. The resulting imagery is absolutely signature–autobiographical, even–for it is also a visual ode to their home country of Romania, its costume and mythology, where they grew up before their family immigrated to Germany.
There is distinct rhythm and movement to the Tobias brothers’ compositions as one’s eyes graze over their entire body of works, as though figures and graphic lines partake in a mysterious choreography. The whites of eyes of creatures and figures contrast the soft washes of color – their cryptic gaze seductive and unsettling. Decapitated heads with empty eyes and the silhouette of a demon lurking conjure a feeling of foreboding, as we stand witness to esoterica or cult ritual.
Narratives crop up and then fade in a lyrical smoke and mirrors; the logic of these fantastical sequences remains deliciously obscure. Feminine hues and female-like figures are set against decorative architecture, stirring connotations of the domestic. However, each is interrupted by the presence of exotic birds, hovering mosquitoes or creeping foliage. The idea of an interior is being permeated by the dreams of an outside world. Natural motifs make up bodily forms; it is a psychic state, as if they have internalized the exterior wild for which they yearn. Though each figure seems powerful and strong, we begin to wonder, are they free?
PATRIZIO DI MASSIMO – Bread and Circuses
With his newest body of works, London-based Italian artist Patrizio Di Massimo devotes himself entirely to painting, the crux of his artistic practice. For an artist who is known to engage across many media, this essentialist return to works on canvas is born from his ongoing desire to confront the medium exclusively and directly. For his first solo exhibition at rodolphe janssen it becomes Di Massimo’s prevailing language, as the self-taught painter explores the body as a cultural site.
Standing before Di Massimo’s towering figures, our gaze rests on spectacles of human behavior. The curtain pulls back and subjects pose and perform as if on a stage or in a scene along a mysterious plot line. If portraiture is the exploration of human nature, then Di Massimo reveals a human being entangled in situations of violence, hedonism, and wantonness. What sympathy surfaces here as we behold others attempting to extend beyond themselves, the confines of boredom, the drudgery of the quotidian, and their own basic humanness? It is of bread and circuses, as though we have cried entertain us and Di Massimo’s characters oblige, at an apex of tragedy and humor.
Di Massimo positions the viewer as a cautious voyeur to a decisive moment: storylines balance on a tipping point before the slip of a knife or the drip of hot wax. Displayed in a classical presentation, each work is a blend of references: postmodernism, Otto Dix, and Walt Disney inform his distinguished style. Black backgrounds obfuscate speculations on place and the unknown looms in darkness. Nevertheless, our curiosity pervades and we seek out clues in objects, attempt to infer them with meaning, but it is in vain. Nothing concrete arises. Di Massimo has created a conundrum, obscuring any direct paths towards truth or knowledge. What is effectuated here is a brilliant subversion of cultural symbols and meaning making – we are not meant to know or, better said, we cannot ever really know.
Di Massimo does not paint the other, rather each work is somewhat a self-portrait. He poses for his studies of the male body while his partner stands in for female figures. This is, after all, about performance and acting, and a private exploration of the human form through fantasy and projection onto one’s own ego. In self-portraiture there is a rapprochement of maker and subject, in what is, for Di Massimo, an intuitive and fragile process. We behold a metaphoric undressing, a candid removal of the proverbial armor which one dons in daily life.
Subtle fear and expectation of danger dangles in the air, extending time. Di Massimo’s work is a watershed of desire, a violent release. While the story is unfinished, the direction is clear: what is undone cannot be mended; what may be damaged may not be healed so readily.
Livornodtraat 32 & 35
Tuesday up until Friday 10h – 18h
Saturday 14h – 18h