April 11, 2015 - S.M.A.K. - Jef Geys
April 11, 2015

Jef Geys

Jef Geys, poster for the exhibition in S.M.A.K., 2015. © Jef Geys.

Jef Geys
11 April–6 September 2015

Museum of Contemporary Art
Jan Hoetplein 1
B-9000 Ghent

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Jef Geys (b. 1934, Leopoldsburg) breaks decisively with the notion of art as an autonomous phenomenon. He radically embraces art as being intertwined with everyday life. Geys reverses or undermines hierarchies by switching identities, infiltrating his work into unusual settings and introducing the ordinary things of life into his art. Since 1958 he has been saving traces of his personal life and his immediate surroundings: the village of Balen. On the Belgian periphery, it is Geys’s Archimedean point, as the archive is his medium. As an accumulation of the ordinary, his oeuvre has expanded into a many-branched tangle of associations that will continue to grow in parallel with the real-time activity of the artist. For Geys, exhibitions are occasions to distil new syntheses from his archive, thereby questioning clearly delineated patterns of thought concerning art and life.

Geys’s presentation in S.M.A.K. unfolds in three chapters, embracing his relationship with the Ghent museum and his presence in the collection of other Belgian museums. The exhibition and the way it came about reflect the organizational structure of the museum.It starts by outlining an unfulfilled event, linked with his current exhibition venue, in the form of a floor plan from S.M.A.K.’s neighbouring museum, the Museum of Fine Art (MSK), which hosted the S.M.A.K. from 1976 until its own building opened in 1999. The floor plan refers to an exhibition project once initiated by its founding director, Jan Hoet, who ultimately abandoned the plan. Geys thus traces out an event that never happened.

At the centre of the exhibition, Geys opens up his archive by presenting no less than 800 graphic, text- or collage-based archive items displaying his non-hierarchical filtering of any event of interest: from arts to sciences, religion, politics and back. Furthermore, Geys premieres his paper doily drawings in a museum context. At irregular intervals he visits a local bar, where he copies newspaper headlines that attract his attention onto the paper doilies on which his coffee is served. From time to time he adds comments or drawings, sometimes serious, sometimes ironic or humorous.

The exhibition culminates in Geys’s response to the government-imposed cooperation between four leading museums of contemporary art in Flanders: Middelheim Museum and M HKA (Antwerp), Mu.ZEE (Ostend) and S.M.A.K. (Ghent). In 2009 the collaborative knowledge platform CAHF (Contemporary Art Heritage Flanders) was initiated by and built around the collections of these museums. Geys overemphasizes the significance of this structure by presenting each museum’s webpages and reproductions of all the works of his in its collection, centred on four of the artworks themselves.

Geys’s specific pursuit of leveling all obstacles between art and people is made concrete by activating S.M.A.K.’s museum guards as mediators of the show, and by providing advertising space for local businesses from his hometown of Balen, as well as in critical reminders of his participation in Chambres d’Amis (1986), Jan Hoet’s historical exhibition which breached the borders between public and private.

Since 1969, Geys has been compiling a Kempens Informatieblad (or Kempens Informatieboek, a more extensive version) for each of his exhibitions. Since he took over this originally local publication containing regional news, it has also had an artistic function as a democratic form of exhibition catalogue. This exhibition will be accompanied by two new publications: a two-part Kempens Informatieboek, published in association with the Masereelfonds, containing the 800 archive items, and another Kempens Informatieboek showing the 80 doily drawings included in this exhibition.

Jef Geys’s work has been exhibited worldwide: Wiels, Brussels, Belgium (2012); ICP & Orchard Gallery, New York (2008 & 2007); Marfa, Texas (2007); IAC Villeurbanne, France (2007); Pori Art Museum, Finland (2005); Kunsthalle Lophem, Loppem, Belgium (2005); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (2004); Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); Kunstverein, Munich, Germany (2001); Frac Champagne-Ardenne, France (1995); Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (1993); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (1992); São Paulo Biennale, Brazil (1991).

For more information, please contact Annelies Vantyghem:
T +32 (0) 9 240 76 49 / annelies [​at​] smak.be

Jef Geys at S.M.A.K.
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