June 16, 2015 - Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel - Martin Boyce
June 16, 2015

Martin Boyce

View of Martin Boyce, Our Love is Like the Flowers, the Rain, the Sea and the Hours (Black and Yellow Benches with Trees), Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, 2015.*

Martin Boyce
April 25–August 16, 2015

Museum für Gegenwartskunst 
St. Alban-Rheinweg 60
4010 Basel


Martin Boyce at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel (Museum of Contemporary Art, Basel), the artist’s first solo museum show, will focus on sculpture and installation, but also present photography and wall works from a 14-year period. The exhibition includes complete and reconfigured installations such as the multipart Do Words Have Voices—exhibited here for the first time since its original showing, it earned Boyce the prestigious Turner Prize in 2011—as well as a newly arranged group of works that were exhibited at the 2009 Venice Biennale under the title No Reflections. This latter group includes, for instance, a pathway of concrete stepping stones and a mass of fallen leaves which, upon closer inspection, are seen to be precisely designed, cut and folded objects.

Classics of modernist art and design are central to Boyce’s wide repertoire of references. The artist cuts up Arne Jacobsen’s Series 7 chairs and rearranges the pieces as mobiles that seem to blend brutality with the fragility and lightness of early Alexander Calder pieces. He remakes the modular ESU shelving systems designed by Charles and Ray Eames and reassembles them to form paranoid-seeming sculptures that allude to the work of other artists such as the members of De Stijl. Occasionally, the atmosphere of Boyce’s works suggests the pictorial world of film noir, as in a series of objects in the form of ventilation grills set into the wall.

Central to his work from 2005 on is a repetitive linear grid derived from the cubist-geometric concrete trees designed by the French-born twins Jan and Joël Martel in 1925. The trees were made for a garden by the avant-garde architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. Through close study Boyce extracted the formal principle of these sculptures and translated it into a pattern that underlies a new lexicon of forms. The lamellae of the luminous ceiling and the geometrical figures of the ventilation grills set into the walls are among the objects based on this matrix. 

He frequently groups individual sculptural elements to form installations that recall specific locations such as urban parks or playgrounds, which nonetheless remain imaginary and dreamlike as though they were imprints of a reality that has vanished. Water, for example, is not directly seen in the installation A River in the Trees; the work evokes its imaginary presence in the form of stepping stones and dried fallen leaves.

Some of the words that Boyce chooses for the titles of his works, such as petrified, frozen, abandoned, or evaporated, relate to this idea of something that is no longer actively existent yet appears to be recalled in the artist’s installations as a form of afterimage. The same holds for the breeze that must have scattered the leaves over the ground in the exhibition space. One might connect this imaginary breeze to the ventilation grills in the installation Do Words Have Voices, just as the countless fins of the illuminated ceiling structure can be seen as a canopy of leaves, a phantasmagoria characterized by a unique combination, anticipated in the Martel brothers’ trees, of poetically depicted nature and modern industrial aesthetics.

Curator: Søren Grammel

Reception for Martin Boyce: drinks & book launch
June 17, 2015, 6–8pm
The new issue of Manual accompanying the exhibition Martin Boyce is out. Drinks will be served to celebrate the publication of Manual No. 3—Martin Boyce. The artist will be present. 

Martin Boyce at Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel
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