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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Helmut in Hannover

Fiona Bryson goes skin-diving...

Helmut Lang has always pushed the envelope, from using new materials and techniques in his collections to forging unique collaborations with other artists. Now, in his first solo exhibit, Alles Gleich Schwer—currently showing at the Kestnergesellschaft in Hanover, Germany, through November 2—he explores the possibilities of surrogate skins and public versus private life, as well as folkloric mythologies such as maypole ceremonies. Curated by Neville Wakefield and Frank-Thorsten Moll, the work is what one expects from the Austrian—sleek and modern, and never giving away more than enough.

Two pieces in the show are adaptations from prior shows: Next Ever After, an objet trouvé in the form of a disco ball shown at the Journal Gallery in Brooklyn last year, and the video installation Séance de Travail 1993-1999 (pictured left), from the 1998 exhibition with longtime artist-collaborators Jenny Holzer and Louise Bourgeois. Meanwhile, the new works in Alles Gleich Schwer comprise objects such as Three, three eagle-shaped mahogany sculptures, covered with tar on the outside yet revealing their wooden insides.

Another untitled piece consists of aged and damaged bumpers, made of rubber, steel and tar—symbolizing protection. And the signature piece, Surrogate Skin, is a mixed-media and pigment process used as the title suggests. The most impressive work is Arbor, the maypole with phallic, fetishistic connotations, cast in oak, iron, rubber and pvc, which perhaps draws on Lang's rigid upbringing in rural Austria.

The show marks a welcome return for Lang, who, since his departure from the fashion industry in 2005, has moved away from expressing himself through clothing and concentrated on art. Future projects include a collaboration with Absolut, in the creation of a virtual version of Alles Gleich Schwer (seen below), and the curation of a special project for the Deste Foundation in 2009, in addition to gallery shows in New York and London.

Surrogate Skin



Exclusive Absolut video, launching September 30

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