Heimo Zobernig’s work crosses media, from architectural intervention and installation, through performance, film and video, to sculpture and painting. His practice across all these forms is connected by an interrogation of the formal language of modernism, at its most familiar in the tropes of the monochrome and the grid. It is remarkable that it is as much through his almost classical works of painting and sculpture as through his spatial and architectural installations and interventions that his conceptual critique is developed. Zobernig unfolds the structures of art from the inside.
Since 1997, when as part of his participation in Documenta X in Kassel, Zobernig articulated the central space of the documenta-Halle by means of floor to ceiling screens, the formal and conceptual device of the screen has been one consistent thread running through his diverse practice and across the various media of his work. Whether fabricated in jute, reflective or transparent foil and used as sculptures for a gallery show (Meyer Kainer Gallery, Vienna 1998), or in the form of Chroma-key fabrics stretched onto aluminium supports and hung around the walls of a predominantly white auditorium-like installation (Kunstverein Munich, 1999), Zobernig’s screens have, since the late 1990s, been a key critical device through which he negotiates the relationship between painting, video, sculpture and architectural intervention.
In this most recent series of paintings the importance and complexity of the conceptual relationship of painting to screen breaks new ground. The surfaces of the works, each 2 metres square, are made up of tesserae which recall the pixels of low resolution 1980s video screens. Zobernig uses the taping and masking technique familiar from many of his recent series of paintings, from the formal grid paintings of the early 2000s to the more gestural broken grids and ‘spaghetti’ paintings of recent years, but in these works the tape used is broader, and cut , a little roughly, by hand. Layers of paint, starting in white and moving through the Chroma-key daylight colours follow, and patterns of tape are removed as the layers are built. Words and letters swim into focus and fragment again. VIDEO, PAINTING, LOOK; these paintings are, as Zobernig jokes, his new videos. In their shimmering texts, their digital palettes, their coarse pixellation, they declare their relationship to the moving image in a way which is at once explicit and playfully elusive.
Heimo Zobernig was born in Austria in 1958, and currently lives and works in Vienna. He studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Wien from 1977-1980, and at the Hochschule fur Angewandte Kunst, Wien from 1980-1983. He has exhibited extensively across the world, with major solo exhibitions at the Kestnergesellschaft, Hannover, Germany (2014), Mudam Luxembourg, Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2014), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain (2012), which travelled to Kunsthaus Graz, Graz, Austria (2013), Kunsthalle Zurich and the Essl Museum, Vienna (2011), Centre Pompidou, Paris, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, CAPC, Musée d’art Contemporain, Bordeaux (2009) and Tate St Ives (2008). Zobernig was chosen to represent Austria in the 56th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale. His intervention of the Austrian Pavilion will be on view until 22 November 2015.
Press release courtesy Simon Lee Gallery.