KOTARO NUKAGA is pleased to announce their inaugural exhibition by the London and Mexico City based conceptual artist Stefan Brüggemann, his first appearance in Japan. Titled “HA HA WHAT DOES THIS REPRESENT? WHAT DO YOU REPRESENT?”, the show will focus on ‘CARTOON PAINTINGS’ and ‘PUDDLE PAINTINGS’ from a series that Brüggemann has been working on in recent years, as well as showcasing his latest series of ‘HYPER-POEM PAINTINGS’.
The concept of Brüggemann’s works has always been to question contemporary society and artistic processes by adopting a critical, often provocative and ironic attitude towards them. By carefully inserting a certain pop sensibility into conceptual practices, Brüggemann seeks to create his ‘minimal pop’ aesthetic. This strategy is based on his approach to quote the elements and strategies of the classic art movement of the 20th century.
The idea of ‘CARTOON PAINTINGS’ derives from an original satirical cartoon from the series “How to Look at Looking” by the American artist Ad Reinhardt made in the late 1950s. The cartoon mocks the common reception of Abstract Expressionism, with a besuited visitor pointing to a painting and asking ‘What does this represent?’ The painting startles him with the retort ‘What do you represent?’ Brüggemann pastes multiple inkjet prints of the cartoon onto white canvases before adding small hand applied brushstrokes in black oil paint and ink in patterns that recall digital patination. The works operate as a reflection on our contemporary internet culture of ‘ctrl + copy + paste’; a phenomenon inconceivable when the cartoon was first published. The means of reproducing images have developed from laborious manual application and screen printing to instant digital impressions, while our relationship with information has undergone a wholesale transformation from precious resource to overabundant material. Though attitudes and technologies have changed, Brüggemann reminds us that Reinhardt’s question about how we understand perception itself, however, remains as potent as ever.
‘PUDDLE PAINTINGS’ employ elements such as handwritten words and combine them with the raw application of poured aluminum paint. The artist’s use of a double negative – the term ‘NO’ and its partial concealment – extends his interest in repetition ad infinitum. The appearance of coagulated silver paint makes direct reference to techniques of abstract expressionism and the notion of gestural action. In particular, they allude to Jackson Pollock’s ‘drip’ technique deemed powerfully expressive. The ‘New York School’ used abstraction to deliver a specific emotional charge; progressively the canvas became an arena in which to act, and, according to seminal critic Harold Rosenberg, was transformed from a picture to an event. Brüggemann’s works echo the critique of painting and attempts to further erode the tropes of personal expression, namely style and signature. The resulting canvases function as ‘anti-paintings’ since they fulfil but the most rudimentary conditions of painting, yet are entirely lacking in emotion and painterly quality.
With similarities to his other series,‘HYPER-POEM PAINTINGS’ is a conceptual project to suspect the contemporary society and artistic process; namely in this series, immediacy of today’s hyper-speed society. Brüggemann utilizes vocabulary of our present time to create what he calls poems. The artist states that “the paintings are a poetic existential confrontation with the self in our accelerated times.” This is reflected in the way the paintings are made from computer generated text, printed on A4 sheets of paper and glued on canvas in an arbitrary fashion; the whole process happening rapidly against time.