Heimo Zobernig

537 W 22nd Street

March 14 – April 12, 2008


Opening reception: Friday, March 14, 6–8 pm

Friedrich Petzel Gallery is pleased to announce a solo exhibition of new work by the Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig. The exhibition will include painting, video and a site-specific installation of approximately thirty free-standing paravents (room dividers covered in jute linen).

Zobernig's practice is arguably best considered as one that "view[s] the great modernist project as in a perpetually unfinished state" (David Pestorius in his essay Due Process).1 For why else would an artist since 2000 produce grid paintings, often in a diamond format, if not to bring to bear the ghosts of Piet Mondrian and Blinky Palermo? But unlike Modernism's adversity to discourse, Zobernig's process embraces, in an almost theosophical sense, the spiritual use of the straight line, playfully building on historical moments and revealing an intuitive approach that upon first glance may appear at odds with the coolly grid-like system. Zobernig's process is a completely subjective one in which the artist is opening up and questioning our historical legacy and its conflicts, such as the real vs. the symbolic or the secular vs. the spiritual.

In addition to the grid paintings, the exhibition will include diamond-formatted canvases on to which the artist has randomly glued Swarovski crystals, at once citing the spiritual, the base/earthly, elemental/mineral and finally what Vitus Weh in his essay The Crystal Soul of the Modern Museum identifies as "the symbolic essence of the modern museum."1 Zobernig, who has long been associated with institutional critique, has managed in these crystal paintings to ponder the crystalline nature of the museum itself and to add another level to the long-standing use by artists of such a material.

For the installation of the paravents, Zobernig will place the dividers in the middle of the gallery in a grid pattern deduced from his grid paintings, extending his investigation into pushing the boundaries of any public/institutional framework. Viewers will not only see the paintings surrounding these dividers but will find themselves, so to speak, in one of the paintings. The viewer is de-centered and ambulatory, as opposed to trapped in the stasis often associated with the contemplation of a two-dimensional artwork. As with his paintings, Zobernig uses the most basic and simple means and methods with the jute linen and the wooden stretchers upon which they are attached in order to create complex spatial situations.

Finally, Zobernig's video Nr. 24. (2007), a 14 minute, 22 seconds loop (video editing: Bernhard Riff/stunts: Lone Haugaard-Madsen) will be shown, in which we see the naked artist battle three adversaries against the backdrop of chroma key technology, a method often referred to as "blue screen" and most often utilized by television broadcast stations to superimpose one video image over another (usually behind the newscaster). The three adversaries are dressed systematically in the chroma key colors of blue, red and green material, and they proceed to gag the artist, "erase" his penis with a chroma blue key, and then pile books upon him until he collapses. The video itself, with its ever-changing chroma elements, morphs and mutates to create a kind of living painting, addressing literally a narrative in which the artist, while grappling with history and his role within it, crumbles beneath it, only to loop and re-emerge again.

Heimo Zobernig was born in 1958 in Mauthen, Austria. He has had numerous solo exhibitions internationally, including a mid-career survey in 2003 that originated at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien and traveled to both the Kunsthalle Basel and the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf. He has participated in the Skulptur Projekte in Münster (1997), the Biennale de Venezia (2001) and Documenta X (1997). He lives and works in Vienna, where he also serves as a professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien. This is his first solo exhibition at Friedrich Petzel Gallery in New York.

Friedrich Petzel Gallery is located at 537 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011. There will be an opening reception on Friday, March 14th from 6 - 8 PM, and the exhibition will remain on view until Saturday, April 12th. For further information, please contact the gallery at info@petzel.com, or call (212) 680-9467.

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