Maria Eichhorn. The capacity for non-existence

The German conceptual artist just opened a monographic show in Zurich encompassing twelve fundamental evidences of her documental practice.

Maria Eichhorn, 72 Bilder (1992–93), 72 monochrome painted canvases, name tags, labeling on the reverse side of the canvases, each 123 x 93 cm, vitrine, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, photo: Lorenzo Pusterla © ProLitteris, Zürich

In Zurich, Maria Eichhorn (Bamberg, Germany, 1962) just opened her most syncretic exhibition, wisely installed into Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst and titled Zwölf Arbeiten / Twelve Works (1988–2018). Tautologically, twelve selected artworks, dating from the past thirty years, encourage the viewers to reflect on several evidences and to engage a meticulous dialogue between speculative coalescences and material narratives.

The exhibited works represent twelve milestones, twelve landmarks from Eicchorn’s career: Κτίριο ως περιουσία άνευ ιδιοκτήτη / Building as Unowned Property (2017); Limmatstrasse 270, 8005 Zürich (2011/2018); Hall Broom (2011); Militant (2010); Paper Bags (2009/2018); l’acédie, l’orgueil […] (2009/2018); 輸入禁制品 / Prohibited Imports (2003); Cart / 90 Posters (1995/2018); 72 Paintings (1992–93); Four Corners of a Removed Sheet of Paper (1992); Curtain (Orange) (1989/2001/2018); and finally Rolled up Banner (1988/2018).

Her works are the result of a careful and precise artistic practice in which the artist breaks through our familiar patterns of perception. Often, with the most minimal interventions and the use of simple and sometimes old techniques, Eichhorn succeeds in bringing new life to the apparently unambiguous content of objects and phenomena from our everyday life, and open up unexpected spaces for interpretation. Embodying her oeuvre, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst focuses on large-scale productions in close cooperation with the artist. Here, the Contemporary art is conceived as a dynamic temporal classification that encompasses an ongoing exploration between looking forwards and looking back. At the same time, the term implies integration into a social context, as well as involvement in an ongoing exchange of ideas and in art production. The exhibitions at the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst frame art history as a dynamic process that is open to scrutiny, revision, and variation. Incorporating the collection into a lively environment that is in contact with, and promotes, contemporary art production and addresses sensitive audiences is another objective of the museum.

Maria Eichhorn, Installation view, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Foto: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich © ProLitteris, Zürich
Maria Eichhorn, Installation view of 72 Paintings, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich © ProLitteris, Zurich

Actually, the most extended installation, displaced in Zwölf Arbeiten / Twelve Works,  is  72 Paintings (1992–93), belonging to Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst’s collection. This exhibition is the first parcours showing 72 Paintings in a single row, the series takes up the entire upstairs gallery. The presentation is completed by a display case with documentary materials related to the process of making the work. The painting installation was part of the project Toile / Pinceau / Peinture inside the exhibition Qui, Quoi, Où (22.10.1992 – 17.1.1993) displaced at the Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. When the show, which ran exactly for 72 days, opened, 72 primed canvases (each 123x93 cm) had been hanging on the wall in three stacks, and a chair stood by a table on which three cardboard boxes filled with 72 different oil paints from the Lukas Studio range, 72 brushes, and various other painting supplies as well as a copy of the book Scent and Chemistry. The Molecular World of Fragrances had been set out. A wall calendar showed a schedule for each day of the exhibition; altogether 36 people, the majority of them museum employees, had signed up to pick a colour and paint a monochrome canvas.

Maria Eichhorn, 輸入禁制品 / Prohibited Imports, 2003, wall-mounted vitrine (wood, glass), books, magazines, 47.5 x 76.5 x 38 cm, Sammlung Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Foto: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich © ProLitteris, Zürich
Maria Eichhorn, 輸入禁制品 / Private imports, 2003, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zurich © ProLitteris, Zürich

At Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst among rolls of stacking paper, folded sheets of paper and posters originating from programs of activists, the ephemeral statute of the oeuvre challenges time: Eichhorn achieves illusionistic effects, following a great art historical tradition. But on the contrary to that tradition she reveals the foundations of her research a moment later, so that the illusion usually lasts only a short time. In Eichhorn’s works, the magic that goes beyond the initial surprise and prompts reflection lies precisely in this interplay of expectation and disappointment, as in Κτίριο ως περιουσία άνευ ιδιοκτήτη / Building as Unowned Property (2017).

The piece encompasses all processes related to the conversion of a property in Athens into an unowned asset as well as the documents that accumulate in the process of the transfer of title. Conceived on occasion of documenta 14 in Athens, the work is concerned with the city’s urban fabric, where high vacancy rates, especially in the centre, are a conspicuous indicator of the social and economic crisis in Greece. By converting a vacant building in Athens into an unowned property, the artist creates a sculpture in the urban space that belongs to no one.

Exhibition Title:
Maria Eichhorn Zwölf Arbeiten / Twelve Works (1988–2018)
Opening dates:
From November 20, 2018 to February 3, 2019
Curated by:
Dr. Raphael Gygax
Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst
Limmatstrasse 270, CH–8005, Zurich

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