Art Basel Highlights

Sharing my favorites from the Art Basel previews and before it opens! Enjoy!

Jack Goldstein
Untitled, 1984

Acrylic on canvas | 72 x 96 inches

Goldstein's early rejection of Minimalism and urgent embrace of imagery helped establish him as a key figure in what is today known as the Pictures Generation - and made him one of the most influential American artists of the 1980s. His Lightning series is often perceived as a moniker of the artist's somber, brooding self-reflection. Goldstein's Untitled, 1984, parallels the transitory nature of lightning itself, where "the psychological experience of extreme distance is wedded to a tremorlike physical response that is pleasurable in the tradition of the sublime, where primal emotions such as fear can be experienced from a safe distance."  In the vast scale of his works and depth of subject matter, Goldstein reintroduces the power to provoke and unsettle back into painting. 

Karl Haendel
Lion, 2019

Pencil and ink on paper | 51.5 x 94 inches

Karl Haendel has devoted his practice to drawing as a central medium to his work, a notion that has become somewhat of a rarity in the art world. Artists such as Robert Longo and Andrea Bowers continue to make work in a similar vein, however, Haendel approaches his work with a more ambivalent attitude. His drawings veer more to a personal or pop-culture connection, and although the pieces are at times simplistic in their combinations, they demonstrate a sense of morality. Something as simple as a watch on lion makes you take a second look or ponder the deeper meaning.

Mateo López
I am Sitting in a Room, 2017

Wood, brass hinges | 39 x 25.25 x 45.5 inches

A transference of energy between the body and sculpture through performance is essential to López’s work. In this movement, the body serves as a bridge between the physical and the cognitive, rather than a tool that only manipulates. Influenced by artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer’s The Triadic Ballet, which reduced the human form into a system of geometric shapes, López personified a wooden door. The door’s ‘back’ leans against the wall while its ‘legs’ provide upright support, setting the tone for the playful experience.

Rirkrit Tiravanija
untitled 2019 (flag study no.1), 2019

Collaged laser cut, acid-free cardboard | 30 5/8x 45 1/2 inches

Rirkrit Tiravanija is widely recognized as one of the most influential artists of his generation. His practice defies media-based description, combining traditional object making, public and private performances, teaching, and other forms of public service and social action. In this particular piece, Tiravanija references Jasper Johns' iconic Three Flags painting, recontextualizing the work by removing the colors and adding his own text.

Gabriel Rico
I Mural - Reducción objetiva orquestada -, 2019

Found objects, neon and brass | 125.98 x 125.98 x 1.18 inches

Rico’s sculptural works reflect on the nature of the materials used to produce them and their arrangement in the final composition. The principle of I Mural - Reducción objetiva orquestada - is to achieve a syncopated rhythm from the elements that compose it, while considering the abstraction generated by a measurement of the separate elements that comprise them. This references a principle for the uncertainty that is presented when the mind begins to visualize the different forms between them - and after a few moments observing it, the different materials of which they are made are evidenced.

Jorge Méndez Blake
It was a Pleasure to Burn (XIII), 2019

Colored pencil on paper | 97.64 x 50.39 inches

This piece is part of the series of works Méndez Blake has made around the 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury. The novel takes place in a not so distant society, in which literature has been forbidden because it is associated with dissenting ideas and thinking. In the story, books are banned and law forbids reading. When government agents and firefighters find any books, they are confiscated and burned to ashes. In the drawing series It Was a Pleasure to Burn, named after a quote of the book, Méndez Blake reproduces an almost abstract smoke column. The artist uses it in the same sense that it is used in the novel, recalling cancellation and banning democratic processes of thought.

Thomas Bayrle
Retired Woman, 1973

Acrylic on canvas | 42 1/8 x 39 1/3 inches

A pioneer of German Pop Art, Thomas Bayrle is best known for his ‘super-forms’, large images composed of iterations of smaller cell-like images. Humorous, satirical, and often political, his paintings, sculptures, and digital images are commentaries on the systems of control and domination in a rapidly globalizing economy.

Math Bass
Newz!, 2019

Gouache on canvas | 42 x 44 inches

Elusive forms shift in signification as they co-mingle with one another in Bass’ ongoing series: Newz!. Having developed a lexicon of enigmatic symbols, Bass deploys and constantly reorganizes them in a practice that evolves through self-reflection. Bass’ pictographic components seem to refer to the ever-shifting nature of signification or personality, pointing to its frequent instability. While graphic and hard edged at first glance, close looking at Bass’ work reveals that each is made completely by hand. This devotional patience adds a further layer of complexity to Bass’ project, hinting at the rewards to be derived from continued looking.

Lee Ufan
From Line, 1978

Oil and pigment on canvas | 35.79 x 28.62 inches

"Looking at a work from Lee Ufan’s "From Point or From Line" series inevitably means imagining a gesture, imagining a brush dipped into a thick mix of mineral pigment, oil, and glue, imagining a hand holding this brush, an arm, a body, imagining the tension in this body’s muscles, imagining the artist’s breath, his concentration, until there is contact between material and canvas, then the moment the wrist is raised. Every stroke of the brush is unique, irreversible, indelible. It marks time. It tries to be a faithful reproduction of the preceding stroke, but, while it resembles it, it is never the same."

Jean-Marie Gallais Head of Exhibitions, Centre Pompidou–Metz

Peter Dreher
1455, 1998

Oil on canvas | 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 inches

2144, 2008

Oil on canvas | 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 inches

The German artist Peter Dreher was born in 1932 in Mannheim. Profoundly influenced by the atrocities of the Second World War and the Nazi regime, he considers painting an escape and refuge. Whether painting still life, pots, building facades in New York or abstract motifs, the subjects of his paintings all result from careful observation of light and transparency. In 1974, he made the first painting of what would become his life project: the series, Tag um Tag guter Tag. Every day and night, Dreher paints, in a hyper-realistic way, the same empty glass placed on a table in front of a white wall. He has made more than 3000 representations of this glass, following one simple rule: once the painting has been started, it has to be finished on the same day. 

Jose Dávila
Divisions of the internal space VII, 2019

Vinyl paint on loomstate linen | 86 x 135 1/2 x 2 1/3 inches

Jose Dávila’s work originates from the symbolic languages that function within art history and Western visual culture. These pictorial, graphic and sculptural languages are reconfigured as contradictory and contrasting relations, taking the correspondence between form and content to its limit.

The artist represents these oppositions through different perspectives: the association between images and words; the structural disposition of materials which entails the possibility of a harmonious balance or disarray; the use of peripheral routes in order to define architectural space and the presence of objects. Dávila’s work is essentially a multidisciplinary endeavor that presents a series of material and visual aporias, these paradoxes permit the coexistence of frailty and resistance, rest and tension, geometric order and random chaos.

Jenny Holzer
Truisms: Humor is a release, 2019

Text: Truisms, 1977 − 79, Oak Stone bench | 17 × 48 × 20 inches

Jenny Holzer began producing benches in the late 1980s after a commission for a sculpture garden in Minneapolis, and they have since been installed in locations worldwide. With their simple design and attractive stone slabs, Holzer’s benches might be mistaken at first for another straightforward, commonplace element of landscape design. Yet the thought-provoking texts that she engraves upon them shift a viewer’s perspective immediately. The artist, who writes the texts herself, purposefully uses direct language that is open to interpretation, forcing anyone who encounters, reads, and sits on her benches to think about their own positions on the statements she offers. Holzer transforms an otherwise mundane experience into a moment for reflection — sometimes funny, sometimes serious, but always thoughtful.

Tom Friedman
Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1999

Sugar cubes and sugar | 48 × 17 × 10 inches

New York Times critic Roberta Smith says: “(Tom) Friedman’s work demonstrates unusual clarity in the interaction of materials and thought. In fact, he connects the two.” Over the course of his twenty-five year career, Tom Friedman has often referenced ideas of anonymity and self-portraiture in the same work. One of Friedman’s most iconographic sculptures, Untitled (Self-Portrait) is constructed entirely from hundreds of sugar cubes and presents a replica of the artist in a characteristically slack posture. Referencing digital culture, it renders the human form in pixelated blocks. Friedman’s work has the uncanny ability to imbue everyday, domestic materials with wonder and awe.

Jim Hodges
His view looking back (dreaming of him), 2019

24k gold on linen panel | 60 × 44 inches

Jim Hodges’ His View Looking Back (Dreaming of Him) is an ethereal painting in a new series depicting landscape. Hodges’ works explore themes of fragility, temporality and love in a highly original and poetic vocabulary. They express a sentiment of deeply felt experience and encourage a visceral and communal response. Whether comprised of materials such as curtains woven from artificial silk flowers, metal chains, glass, or created using saliva to generate ink transfer impressions onto paper, Hodges’ works are inhabited by the presence of the body.

Incorporated in his choice of media is a narrative of the human experience, the ebb and flow of life that affects us all. Hodges has often uses gold as part of his practice. The artistic act of masking the linen with layers of gold is highly symbolic and relates to Hodges’ ongoing reflections on time and memory. The gold leaf in this work reflects and refracts the light and offers the viewer a constantly changing perspective.

Deborah Roberts
Don’t let go (RR), 2019

Mixed media and collage on panel | 45 × 35 inches

Combining collage and paint, Roberts’ figurative works depict the complexity of black subjecthood and explore themes of race, identity and gender politics. Roberts’ use of collage speaks to the challenges encountered by young black children as they strive to build their identity, particularly as they respond to preconceived social constructs perpetuated by the black community, the white gaze and visual culture at large.

“The girls I depict in my work are at the age most young girls are when they’re forming their sense of self, figuring out who they are in the world and the odds that are stacked up against them.”

Thomas Zipp
Black Green Pill, 2019

Granite, limestone, wood | 58 x 9.84 x 9.84 inches

German artist Thomas Zipp has devised his narrative conceptualism in various media more than 20 years. His multipart installations, often containing combinations of drawing, painting and sculpture, illustrate surreal or dreamlike figments of something defying exact definition, as in a vision. At the same time, they are strangely suggestive and have an aura of aestheticization. Zipp uncovers hidden connections between art history, science, politics and psychology and deploys them in his work.

Richard Aldrich
Celestial Painting, 2018-2019

Oil and wax on linen | 84 x 58 inches

Richard Aldrich is a contemporary American conceptual artist and painter. Aldrich addresses his own personal history and the way that humans organize information through the formal language of painting, freely citing various aesthetic tropes with humor and irreverence. Aldrich is best known for his loose, abstract compositions, moving freely from gestural mark-making, text-based printing, and cutting the canvas to reveal stretcher bars underneath.

“There's a way that my art always looks the same, but what's progressing is an understanding of how paintings can exist or interact, how they relate to each other and to our understanding of history and how history is determined."

Jeppe Hein

Powder-coated aluminium, neon tubes, two-way mirror, powder-coated steel, transformers | 39.4 x 39.4 x 3.9 inches

Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s installations and sculptures play with our sensory experiences and let the audience take an active role. When visitors approach what may seem to be a familiar thing, like a mirror, they encounter something unexpected.

“I would like to think that happiness looks like that whale, that it’s always swimming around under the surface, and now and then it looks up and becomes visible.”

Günther Förg
Untitled, 2008

 Acrylic on canvas | 51 1/8 x 126 inches

In the early 2000's, Förg’s paintings left the formality of Minimalism behind. He pursued a new direction using brighter palettes and a more expressive hand with a series of grid-like marks and intersecting colors. Other works from this era portray vast canvases of negative space interrupted by colorful, gestural hatching and mark-making. Förg’s ultimate return to expressive painting indicates a completion of sorts – a full-circle arrival at painting as a synthesis of experimentation, rooted in art history.

"I think painting is a resilient practice; if you look through the history of painting it doesn’t change so much and we always see it in the present. It is still now."

Silke Otto-Knapp
Land and Sea (Island), 2019

Watercolor on canvas | 55 1/8 x 74 3/4 x 1 1/8 inches

Known for her twilight landscapes and figurative tableaux that engage with the history of painting, Otto-Knapp’s signature style employs subtle washes of watercolor, slowly built up layer by layer on the surface of the canvas to create form. Each carefully constructed composition embodies distinct temporalities and moods evoked through a juxtaposition of flatness and luminosity achieved through painterly chroma and surface texture. Drawing inspiration from a myriad of sources and subject matter including historical figures, landscapes, seascapes, poetry, modern dance choreography, and theatre design, her work engages both abstraction and representation.

Elmgreen & Dragset
L'Etranger, 2014

Celan, glass, aluminium, paint
Dog | 51.2 x 19.7 x 35.4 inches 
Mirror | 81.1 x 34.6 x 1.2 inches
Installation size | 89 x 34.6 x 35.4 inches

With L'Etranger, Elmgreen & Dragset navigate ideas of self-awareness, performance and identity. A figure of a large dog is placed on two legs, the other two up against a circular mirror, positioned to match the dog’s reflection. Mouth open as if to suggest he is barking, the dog stares back at himself through the mirror. The aggressiveness of his form and stance is contradicted by his chosen material, porcelain, suggesting a kind of internal fragility masked by an outward aggression.

This discrepancy between outward and inward appearances literally mirrors many of our own emotions, as we find ourselves balancing between public and private selves. The title L'Etranger, references Albert Camus' infamous novel of the same name, bringing to mind the existential issues of identity and reality that are brought about in the book.

Adam McEwen
Payphone, 2018

Graphite | 26 1/8 × 20 × 10 1/8 inches

McEwen's graphite sculptures play on the notion that they are “sketches” in the way that a sketch on paper is the plan, not the actual work—an idea supported by the parallels between the use of graphite pencils to make sketches, and McEwen’s use of graphite to make sketch-sculptures. The pieces become are three-dimensional drawings of the idea of a thing. The contrast between the shadowy graphite rendering and the image of that same object is creates a slightly dystopian overtone to the series.

Theaster Gates
In the Event of Race Riot VI, 2011

Wood, metal, glass and firehose | 34 7/8 × 28 3/8 × 4 1/2 inches

Part of a series that features lengths of decommissioned fire hoses, Theaster Gates alludes to the Civil Rights Movement and, in particular, the use of high-pressure water hoses against peaceful African American demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, in May 1963. However, the wording of the title raises the possibility of future use of the fire hose, questioning any complacent acceptance of the success of this tumultuous era of American history and pointing to the ongoing struggles for African Americans’ civil rights.