Organised with Frédéric Bonnet
Fifty years after AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal first met in 1968, before starting to work the following year under the name General Idea, Catch me if you can! AA Bronson + General Idea, 1968-2018 is the first exhibition of selected works by both the group and its surviving member, AA Bronson, presented as a continuity. Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal died in 1994.
These five decades of work are examined through the double theme of disappearance and appearance. A careful examination of the works reveals that this motif has spanned the entire career of General Idea and still inhabits the work of AA Bronson. Thus, for instance, Venetian blinds are widely featured in the work of General Idea, as in the two iconic 1975 V.B. Gowns and many associated photographs shown in the exhibition.
This double dynamic sometimes flirts with the ghostly, as in Bronson's 2012–2013 photograph White (in collaboration with Ryan Brewer) and General Idea's Paolini Project from 1977, where the status and reality of the bodies appear subtly uncertain.
There are many examples of this ambiguity which General Idea and AA Bronson have slipped into, not only to blur boundaries between reality and fiction but also to defy the conventions of the gaze and the very nature of what is perceptible, or rather acceptable to the eye. Between presence and absence, concealing and revealing, either directly or in a more discreet and enigmatic manner, this dichotomy often manifests itself with the body as a point of reference. Sometimes not visible, the body is then only suggested. This is the case with Bronson's 2003 Bubble Machine #2, openly alluding to the AIDS virus, or with General Idea's 1992 El Dorado Series which evokes extreme close-ups of different skin tones. This series of abstract paintings appropriates the 18th-century caste paintings commissioned by Philip V of Spain to map and identify the ethnic groups of Latin and South America.
Conversely, sometimes the body is there, accessible in its physical reality, as in Bronson's most recent photograph, Flasher (in collaboration with Matthias Hermann), specifically produced for the exhibition, or in General Idea's numerous self-portraits from the 1970s taken in mirrors.
A discreet but omnipresent accessory in this artistic adventure, the mirror acts as an essential tool, both iconographic and conceptual. Ambiguous by nature, it has allowed the artists to constantly play with the status of things (real or representation?) and the veracity of what is represented, to stage a form of evanescence while opening up the scope of the visual and that of possibilities. The mirror almost becomes the guiding principle of this exhibition, for which predominantly rarely seen or not previously shown works have been selected, including for instance a large number of re-discovered photographs from the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In order to emphasise this community of interests and concerns across the large time spectrum of the exhibition, the uncompromising decision was made to opt for a strictly chronological presentation. This system, while affirming a great conceptual coherence, continuities, nods, and cross-references, bears witness to the important formal diversity and to the intense creativity of artists who have never ceased to renew their vocabulary, even in regards to considerations spanning across half a century of work.
Parallel to the exhibition, Esther Schipper presents 'Krishtalka Books', a pop-up bookstore organized with Sholem Krishtalka, featuring catalogues, rare books, editions, zines and ephemera by AA Bronson and General Idea.
Concomitantly, KW in Berlin will present AA Bronson's Garten der Lüste—a 5-day hybrid installation featuring performances and artworks—from April 26-29, 2018.
General Idea was formed in 1969 by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal. AA Bronson, born Michael Tims, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada (born 1946). Felix Partz, born Ronald Gabe, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, 19451994. Jorge Zontal, born Slobodan Saia-Levy, Parma, Italy, 1944-1994. The three artists worked and lived together until the deaths of Partz and Zontal in 1994.
General Idea founded Art Metropole, an artist archive and resource center in Toronto in 1974 and published FILE Megazine between 1972 and 1989. The General Idea Archive is held at The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.
Recent solo exhibitions include: Photographs (1969-1982), MAMCO, Geneva (2017); Tiempo Partido/Broken Time, MALBA, Buenos Aires (2017) and Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2016); Haute Culture: General Idea. Une rétrospective, 1969 -1994, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2011); General Idea Editions: 1967-1995, which toured to 18 venues between 2003 and 2007, including the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Seville; Kunstverein München, Munich; Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Kunsthalle Zürich; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto, Mississauga.
AA Bronson currently lives and works in Berlin. Since 1994, Bronson has worked and exhibited as a solo artist, often collaborating with younger generations of artists. Since 1999, he has worked as a healer, an identity that he has also incorporated into his artwork. From 2004 to 2010, he was the Director of Printed Matter, Inc. in New York, founding the annual NY Art Book Fair in 2005. In 2009 he founded the Institute for Art, Religion, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York, which he now co-directs. In 2013 he was the founding Director of Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair. He has taught at the University of California in Los Angeles, the University of Toronto, and the Yale School of Art.
Selected solo exhibitions include: AA Bronson, Kunsthalle Wichita (2016); AA Bronson's Garden of Earthly Delights, Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2015); AA Bronson's Sacre du Printemps, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz (2015); AA Bronson: Life and Works, University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto (2014); AA Bronson: Tent for Healing, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2013); The Temptation of AA Bronson, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2013); Invocation of the Queer Spirits (with Peter Hobbs), Creative Time, New York (2008).
Press release courtesy Esther Schipper.