Forty-three painters’ palettes are scattered high and low on the wall. Like paintings in a classic salon exhibition. One palette contains colored rubber bands that mimic bits of paint, while another palette presents pieces of scrap wood as pigment. An artist can use any material to make art, Beat Zoderer (1955) seems to want to say. This extensive installation is a rare figurative work by the Swiss. It marks the opening of his first solo exhibition in the Netherlands.
Less and More Zoderers shows free-standing sculptures, bulging wall collages and his painted work on paper, from the eighties to the present. Characteristic is his abstract visual language and intuitive approach. He also clearly has a preference for vibrant colors and everyday materials that he buys in office stores or the hardware store.
take the work Leergut no. 2 (1997), a collage of tape rolls and empty cardboard tubes that together form a wall sculpture: as if you have opened the drawer with all the adhesive tape in a studio and the chaos of circles rises in playful harmony.
The highlight is Zoderer’s most recent work in the exhibition: Horizontal Score, vertically gelagert (2022). This huge wall sculpture consists of horizontal beams of colored wood that extend over the entire wall. A rhythmic work in which the small blocks between the horizontal lines make your gaze dart back and forth continuously.
Voorlinden introduces Beat Zoderer as an artist who builds on the tradition of Art Concret. An art movement that got its name in 1930 when Theo van Doesburg founded the magazine of the same name. Art Concret is about portraying the pure, abstracted form. The viewer does not have to interpret complicated symbolism or message in the art. Only the direct experience of shape and color matters. This movement was widely imitated in Switzerland in the twentieth century, says the museum. Zoderer was inspired by this, but uses a less strict, more intuitive approach, partly inspired by his free choice of materials: ready-made wood, wool, metal, concrete, air, plastic, everything passes by.
Some of Zoderer’s works refer directly to his sources of inspiration in visual language or title: Max Bill, Henri Rousseau and Marcel Duchamp. Most of the work, however, keeps it completely abstract and lighthearted. Mass Stab No.3 for example, shows colored wooden blocks stacked like a totem pole and Polygoner Monolith consists of four intricate shapes on the wall that yet look simple due to their soft finish and color. The works are mainly about themselves: colour, material and form.
In the accompanying text, Voorlinden does its best to place Zoderer in art history by including many different art movements, from Dadaism to Pop Art. The pretensions of the museum overshadow those of art. Sometimes the museum is careless: constructivism is equated with Art Concret, while there is an essential difference between them in terms of origin and intention. This comparison is forgivable in order not to make the exhibition, which is about direct experience, unnecessarily theoretical. The point is missed when the label of minimalism is put on Zoderer’s work. His work really has little to do with that. The individual works of art are too much about the objects themselves for that and not, as in minimalism, about the relationship to the space and the viewer.
Zoderer’s work is presented as ‘unpretentious art’. This is reflected in how easily digestible the exhibition is. The playfulness and bright colors ensure that everything flows without chafing. Add to that the serene rooms of Museum Voorlinden and there is a perfect combination to lose yourself in art. However, that often does not work, precisely because nothing rubs. The frayed edges are polished in such a way that all spontaneity is suppressed. The sculptures are especially pleasant, but too safe, which keeps them at a distance.
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