Installation view, Martin Boyce, We Are Resistant, We Dry Out in the Sun, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Löwenbräu Areal, Zurich, 2004
The Eva Presenhuber Gallery is delighted to announce the opening of We Are Resistant, We Dry Out in the Sun, an exhibition of new works by the Glasgow-born artist Martin Boyce. With these works, the internationally acclaimed artist analyzes the modern design of the sixties and seventies, often by using the design and form developed by such significant architects as Arne Jacobsen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Mies van der Rohe.
The artistic technique employed by Martin Boyce in his objects, installations, architectural scenarios, and design details aims at shifting and de-narration. Seemingly functional objects are taken from their original context and placed in an artistic setting, thus allowing their symbolic and iconic content to be questioned. For example, Boyce’s earlier works are sculptures that imitate the form of furniture classics. Boyce deconstructs the well-known Jacobsen chair into separate fragments, reassembling them into a mobile that calls to mind the artwork of Alexander Calder. In museums and gallery spaces, Boyce creates the atmosphere of a surrounding that is familiar and trusted by introducing the elements of the everyday, public environments in a novel way. At the same time, the threshold between inside and outside is shifted in a disorienting way; this becomes the theme of his work.
For the exhibition in the Eva Presenhuber Gallery, Boyce employs a part of one space as the base of a swimming pool; a drain in the floor points to a sewage system and thus imaginarily connects the gallery space with the outside. At the same time, the detail points to a sculptural place: in keeping with the modern definition of sculpture, it is not simply an object as such that is being placed in a space; rather it is the sculptural quality of the object that defines the space. Boyce implants the object into a new surrounding and thus conjures up in its new location a definite situational context, by which the details react with one another: the place arranged by the artist takes on a relation to the floor surface, to the unevenness of the floor, to further objects and signs in its environment. As soon as he enters the room as a changed showplace, the observer begins a discourse with the work.
An oft-recurring motif in the artist’s work is the web, or grid, that continuously develops. With this, the artist refers to the extended grid structures of an urban space, to the pattern of vertical and horizontal lines that characterize many American and European cities. This motif is found frequently in Boyce’s installations, in an abstract form on walls or floors. Boyce also employs the form of a spider web or the radiating shape of a parasol in his work. When he utilizes neon tubes for these pieces in order to create the stylized form of the parasol, this recalls simultaneously the cool lighting of modern urban spaces, billboards, and the atmosphere of urban offices.
A certain style or zeitgeist constantly plays a role in Boyce’s work; the artist, comparable to an archaeologist, examines and deconstructs this zeitgeist. Boyce’s work can be seen as a reminiscence of an earlier, “modern” style of architecture and interior design, whose designs simultaneously reflect the political, economic, or cultural context of their use and their production. It is not only the landmark furniture pieces that interest Boyce, but also the quotidian objects. His work further concerns itself with the advent of mass production of furniture pieces; this mass production connects that time to ours. Thus Boyce’s work also critiques the utopias of the Modern period that, after the failure of their vision and their outward decline in importance, are yet present in the architecture of present-day cityscapes.
Boyce’s work borders here on the notion of atmosphere, which was formulated by the philosopher Gernot Böhme. Böhme expanded the aesthetic of atmosphere to the aspects of space, surrounding, architecture, and design. Thus the objects of everyday life evoke the atmosphere of a defined time, through a certain “constellation of surroundings” and with a particular feeling for space. These objects further convey a reflection of the social and cultural attitudes of their period. In this way, Boyce’s work invites one on the one hand to a visual and physical exploration of interior space, and on the other hand to reflect upon the feeling of a time that is connected with the shape and aesthetic of objects.