Clages Gallery | Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa – Culture is what is done to us – Press release
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Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa – Culture is what is done to us – Press release

17. Januar bis 01. März 2014

“Art is what we do. Culture is what is done to us.”

(Carl André, in B. Rose and I. Sandler, “Sensibility of the Sixties,” 1967)

Carl André’s statement from 1967 states his perspective on the reorganization of mass production and mass culture in art as it transpired in the 1960s. The exhibition title of the current solo exhibition by Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa at the gallery Clages omits the first part of this quotation; it is the what is done to us that interests Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa, and what this exhibition intends to draw focus to. This what is done to us implies an almost violent inevitability of cultural and social conventions. Yet precisely this moment is switched off in his current work. Almost personified, the works free themselves from any and all expectations placed on them. They rail against traditional customs responsible for guiding interpersonal behavior. His so-called disabled drawings negate these forms and rules. They reveal unabashed truths, do not simply let things happen, skip contemplation – they reflect an artwork’s autonomy in the dialectic between modernism and mass culture as the minimal artists of the late sixties demanded. In terms of motif, his works are constructed using strong images that that move in an ambivalence between the familiar and monstrous, though they are always accompanied by a wink. In meeting, for example, Juan Pérez Agirregoikoa shows a “Ring Around the Rosie” of comical rats. In this way, he seems to have transposed the proverb “When the cat’s away, the mice will play” in the tradition of 17th century Flemish painting. He parodies it with these rats, which represent drunkenness, gluttony or human behavior. With these dancing and gesticulating animals, he points to the abysses of human nature which – beyond conventions and dogmas – he believes to exist in every man. What at first appears romantic, cute or cool reveals itself to be a radical satire of social behavior patterns, and the everyday, transformed by irony, slips into the grotesque.

Sabine Schiffer