Jiri Kovanda, Francis Upritchard and Anna Artaker

Jiri Kovanda, Francis Upritchard and Anna Artaker


May 1, 2010

Jiří Kovanda White Blanket
Francis Upritchard In Die Höhle
Anna Artaker

30 April – 20 June 2010

Opening: Thursday, 29 April 2010, 7 p.m.
Friedrichstr. 12
A-1010 Wien
presse [​at​] secession.at


The Vienna Secession is pleased to announce the three solo exhibitions by Jiří Kovanda, Francis Upritchard and Anna Artaker, each of them showing primarily new works created especially for the Secession.

In the Czech artist JIŘÍ KOVANDA (*1953, lives and works in Prague), the Secession once again presents an artist in an advanced stage of his career who is currently considered an important point of reference for younger artists. The central element in Kovanda’s site-specific installation for the main hall at the Secession is a wall rising to the viewer’s eye level that divides the exhibition space into two halves; its layout includes a series of bays and salients. It creates tensions on various levels: between the empty space it leaves wide open and the niches it circumscribes, between sculptural autonomy and architectural function, between the exposed space in front and the concealed space behind. With the shape of the wall, and in particular with its height designed such that visitors can just barely look over it, Kovanda actively involves them in the play of hide and seek that is characteristic of his oeuvre. Within this architecture, he places, with an almost offhand gesture, various objects—though they are taken from domestic life, their subtexts readily suggest erotic connotations—: white blankets, a blue orchid, a red lamp, a yellow broom … In their presentation, Kovanda applies the poetic-Surrealist principle of transforming objects and situations by means of small alterations that displace them into more open significative contexts.

In the Secession’s Galerie space, New Zealand artist FRANCIS UPRITCHARD (*1976, lives and works in London) creates a sculptural installation in which human figures, painted in bright colours, inhabit a world replete with found objects and everyday items, modified to meet their needs. The inhabitants and their objects are shown on specially produced or found pieces of furniture. Paying as much attention to the furniture, to its careful refurbishment as to the figures themselves, Upritchard’s work gives equal weight to art, craft, and display: the design and staging within the exhibition space is an integral part of her work. The themes of the installation IN DIE HÖHLE include the exhibition history of the Secession—chandeliers modeled on the designs of Wiener Werkstätte, Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze or Sol LeWitt’s wall paintings—as well as Hippie or New Age counter-cultures. Through the striking confrontation of current ideas of culture with countercultural conceptions, Upritchard skilfully replaces the diktat of convention with a multiplicity of readings and interpretations.

The works of the Austrian artist ANNA ARTAKER (*1976, lives and works in Vienna) examine visual production in the context of how history is written: she analyzes images that have been used in the construction and communication of history and have thus become part of a specific historiography. In recent years, Artaker has closely studied the death masks created by the Armenian-Soviet sculptor Sergei Merkurov (1881–1952). His casts include the faces of Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, of Sergei Eisenstein and Maxim Gorky, but also of party functionaries such as Felix Dzerzhinsky, director of the dreaded secret police, and Andrei Zhdanov, who was responsible for the repressive cultural policy and censorship under Stalin, among many others. Given the religious-cultic origins of the form, the fact that these death masks were created as part of a modern historiographic project renders them unique. In the Grafisches Kabinett, Artaker continues her work on the death masks and presents them using stereoscopic photography in specially designed display cases. With reference to Walter Benjamin’s hypothesis that works of art lose their aura in technical reproduction, Anna Artaker’s exhibition can be read as an examination of the aura, an issue that, since Benjamin, has been a question primarily of the medium.


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May 1, 2010

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