Solo Untitled Action (Gold Paintings) Hauser & Wirth Saint Moritz Switzerland 2020
Interview Stefan Brüggemann in conversation with Randy Kennedy Hauser & Wirth 2020
Review Untitled Action (Gold Paintings) 2020
Spanning – and sometimes combining – sculpture, video and painting, Stefan Brüggemann’s work deploys text in conceptual installations rich with acerbic social critique and a post pop aesthetic. For his inaugural exhibition at Hauser & Wirth St. Moritz, the artist presents a brand-new series of gold-leaf works made during the lockdown in 2020. Evolving from his existing Text Pieces, these laconic texts employ language we regularly encounter in our accelerated digital lives.
Presented as shortened modern poems, Brüggemann’s new series offers a caustic perspective on modernity and the digital age – the staccato rhythms of these sloganistic lines mirroring the relentlessness of newsfeed culture. The gold works intend to cut through the noise of the present moment, and their reflective surfaces, with varied textures and mesmeric rhythms, invite contemplation. In ‘Online Disconnected (Hyper-Poem Lockdown)’ (2020) Brüggemann’s choice of words force us to reflect on our online existence of scrolling and constant consumption, jolting us out of our collective reverie. Many of the texts chosen for these works are cryptic excerpts from the static of digital life, which has been heightened since the global lockdown.
Working with gold leaf as the main medium in the works, Brüggemann speaks of how gold fluctuates between being an economic power and a spiritual power. These fluctuations during this time of uncertainty, question its real value. In St. Moritz, Brüggemann has gilded the architectural void in the middle of the gallery space to create a link between the two floors. The gilded walls are textured through the layering of vinyl text underneath, creating a relief-like effect but ultimately obscuring their messages. As the viewer moves under the space, light dances and plays over the gold leaf and the gallery space. In this way the work demands time and space for reflection, a moment of calm in which speculation gives way to observation.
The philosophy of language is a crucial tenet in the artist’s practice in which text functions as a fluid medium. Writing, rewriting and overwriting imply a perpetual interrogation of form and meaning in which words are unhinged from both their cultural context and an author’s voice. Of the work ‘Hyper-Palimpsest (Gold)’ (2020) and the painted ‘OK OK’ text disguised in the layers of the work, Brüggemann has said: ‘There is inherent uncertainty in the word ‘OK’ and seeing it in this context subverts our expectations – is it a symbol of acceptance or resignation or even hope? It can be ironic, it can be optimistic, it can be negative. It makes you think and doubt what is OK.’ Brüggemann’s masterful wordplay and conceptual rigour coalesce to create a bold and pertinent body of work focusing on themes of appropriation and displacement.