September 30, 2011

Abstraction at Istanbul Biennial 2011

Istanbul Biennial Group Exhibition: Untitled (Abstraction)  Lygia Clark, Charlotte Posenenske, Theo Craveiro, Cevdet Erek, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige

The exhibition Untitled (Abstraction) is inspired by Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s “Untitled” (Bloodwork—Steady Decline) (1994). This minimalist piece, a drawing of a grid with a diagonal line reaching from the top-left corner to the lower-right corner, represents the gradually failing immune system of a patient with HIV. This group exhibition gathers works that subvert pure abstraction and the high-modernist grid by bringing in political and bodily themes.

Crab Beast (Bicho Caranguejo), 1960
30 x 16 x 1 cm
Courtesy the Cultural Association “The World of Lygia Clark”
Photograph: Nuno Franco de Souza

In her proposals, the Brazilian artist LYGIA CLARK (Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1920-1988, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) anticipated the Untitled (Abstraction) theme. The sculpture series Bicho (Beast) made with hinged sheets of aluminum, which Lygia Clark began to work on in 1959, strongly exhibits the artist’s anxiety toward form and her radical views on the social role of art. The Bicho (Beast) that is presented in the Istanbul Biennial create a multisensory experience, turning the viewer into an active participant.

Square tubes, from the series DW, 1986
Corrugated cardboard
152 x 107 x 30 cm
Central Station Frankfurt a.M. 1989 
Courtesy estate (Burkhard Brunn) 
Photography: Burkhard Brunn

In close proximity to Lygia Clark are the DW (1967) sculptures made by the German artist CHARLOTTE POSENENSKE (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1930-1985, Frankfurt, Germany). Made of corrugated cardboard in abstract geometric shapes, they are exhibited differently every week.


Formicary—Visible Idea [Formigueiro―Idéia Visível], 1956/2010
100 x 100 x 15 cm
Courtesy the artist

The young Brazilian artist THEO CRAVEIRO (born in 1983 in Sao Paulo, lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil) decided to create a new system to question whether art has a system or not. Formigueiro—Ideia Visivel (Formicary—Visible Idea, 1956/2010) departs from a key historical painting Idéia Visivel (Visible Idea, 1956) from the Brazilian concrete period by Waldemar Cordeiro, appropriating the design of its black grid over a white background as a glass wall relief containing a living ant farm.

Sounding Dot, 2010
Mono sound, loudspeaker, amplifier, CD player, and paint, 1:24 min.
60 x 60 x 0.4 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria 
From Sky Ornamentation with 3 Sounding Dots and Anti-Pigeon Net (So3sdapn) commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria and Vehbi Koç Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey

CEVDET EREK (born 1974, Istanbul, lives and works in Istanbul) Anti-Pigeon Net (2010) grew out of an installation he made at the courtyard of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary in Vienna, using anti-pigeon netting and sound. The abstract grid calls forth cleanliness and sanitization, through a scatological counter-reference.

180 Seconds of Lasting Images (2006) by the Beirut-based artists JOANA HADJITHOMAS and KHALIL JOREIGE appears to be a large-scale white monochrome structure, but it is actually composed of 4500 photographs, which upon closer inspection reveal themselves as movie fragments in which some figures can be discerned. The material was developed from a film that belonged to Joreige’s uncle, which the artists found 16 years after the uncle’s kidnapping (he is still missing) during the Lebanese Civil War in 1985. They produced the video by printing every frame of the movie.

See also our previous post: Istanbul Bienniale overview
Find detailed information about this group exhibition at