Artist: Josephine Pryde
Venue: Galerie Neu, Berlin
Exhibition Title: Exterior, Night, Day
Date: June 11 – July 23, 2020
Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Neu, Berlin. Photos by Stefan Korte.
Juxtapositions on a façade. *
I had been travelling. I had been to Galicia and to Portugal, and I had been to the Art Institute of Chicago. With what confidence may I say this.
The photographs printed on the tarpaulin show carvings on rocks that exist in the open air. One of these carvings is in Northumberland and I have been visiting it since I can remember. Others, whose formal similarities to this carving are striking, are situated thousands of miles away and I saw them for the first time in March 2017.
Following writings by archaeologists whose work I have consulted, I will refer to these carvings as Atlantic Rock Art. They are thousands of years old. Neolithic. Likely being carved until around the 1st millennium BC.
‘Atlantic Art’s chronology has been a recurrent discussion, but is still an open debate.’(1)
It might be added that interpretation of the motifs is not the subject of my interest here. Indeed, how will we ever know? Let’s think about something else. I have been working with images of these carvings for several years, interested, among other things, in the movements of thought and of people that they suggest. Prehistoric movement. Language. I would like here to join with others who offer the scope of the carvings for consideration.
In February 2020, I was in Chicago to discuss an exhibition of my artwork due to open in the Art Institute at the end of August 2020. On my last afternoon in the museum, before leaving for the airport, I was moving through the painting galleries. There was a free-standing wall in room 201. On it, Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877, by Gustave Caillebotte, was hung to face the visitor who entered from the Grand Staircase. The confident, central location for the wall, with its rainy street scene and camera-style perspective, made for a proper crowd puller, and there were people clustering in front of the artwork. I walked round the back, to see what was on the other side. We had been talking all week about constructing free-standing walls for my exhibition, in rooms 182 and 184 in the Modern Wing downstairs. Behind Paris Street; Rainy Day, there were two paintings: a still-life with fruit by Monet, and another Caillebotte, Calf’s Head and Ox Tongue, ca. 1882. The painting had a lavender sheen shimmering through its gristly subject matter.
On the plane home a few hours later, the airline blanket across my knees, I had the idea to shoot a photograph of an ox tongue, based on the composition of this painting, for a free-standing wall in my own exhibition in Chicago. Chicago, like many US cities, has at the time of writing a building with the word ‘Trump’ emblazoned large upon it. I had seen the building on that last afternoon as well. It too floated through my mind as I sat under the blanket. I imagined Trump with no tongue and what a blessed relief that would be. Deprived of the langue in his language. I had found the title for my photograph. Over the months ahead, through all the shifts that were to come and keep coming, I returned to thinking about that title. Could something so apparently obvious remain in place? Could using it say anything about language and art, other than that I pleased to imagine the 45th President of the United States to be relieved of his tongue?
We leave the door open from the outside into the gallery. A channel into the interior. The lobbyspace is empty, except for possibly some antiseptic and face masks. The reception desk has been re-located into the gallery space at the back, like it was in the exhibition by Klara that I had liked so much. Around the reception desk are hung some black and white photographs, in scaled-back exhibition. They are part of the Hands (Für mich) series I have been printing for the last few years. They show hands in contact with what I call touch-sensitive devices. Touch-sensitive in an expanded sense. These are new prints, and they are framed behind coloured Perspex, which is deployed to function as a kind of ‘in real life’ coloured filter. I choose some older works from the series to install with these, looking especially for ‘Aufnahmeprüfung 1’, for example, because it’s that time of year again, the time of the entrance examinations, at the University where I teach.
That would be the prosaic explanation, anyway, for the inclusion of that work. If you look at it, you see a young hand reaching out to an older one that holds the documents or artwork, just out of reach of the younger hand. When you walk outside again, the 88-square-metre banner, Exterior, Night, Day, is still there, framing the vitrine where The Tongue of Donald J. Trump hangs, to be peered at through the glass.
The photographs stretch images of prehistoric art across the building, with a nod to Impressionism framed for display in the gallery window. The violent removal of the tongue has taken place. This is not so much a call to arms, but a reminder for a future. How did the carvings travel?
1 Joana Valdez-Tullett, Design and Connectivity, 2019, BAR publishing, Oxford, p. 2)
There is no pretending that Exterior, Night, Day is the same exhibition that had been originally discussed between Josephine Pryde, and Galerie Neu’s Alexander Schroeder and Minnie McIntyre, during a studio visit in January 2020.
Should a virtue be made of its re-arranged elements, however? The plans for the exhibition doubtless would have altered between January and June anyway, even without the emergency of the pandemic arriving. What now emerges as Exterior, Night, Day places language firmly at the centre of its concerns, even as new relationships form to the work’s time and location.
Moving a set of images of prehistoric rock carvings onto a banner with which to cover the front facing façade of the gallery was one way to bring part of the exhibition into the open air. Added to this, the large ground floor window could be re-framed as a kind of shop vitrine, in which a single, separate photograph, inspired by a painting hanging in the Art Institute of Chicago, would be displayed for viewing from outside.
Finally, Pryde extended her series of Hands (Für mich) photographs with five new prints of black and white images, framed behind filters of coloured plexiglass. These would be installed inside, together with other works from the series, depicting hands in contact variously with driftwood, electronic devices, and the human chest. A buffer space remains between these photographs and the exterior, at once linking them to the front, while also consigning them for the time being to the rear of the gallery building.