Rafaël Rozendaal | Convenient
24 June - 29 July, 2017
Venue : Takuro Someya Contemporary Art
Since 2001, the Dutch-Brazilian visual artist Rafaël Rozendaal has created 113 web artworks. Such a series of works, while taking the characteristics of the web as their primary structure, feature natural phenomena that exist in our surroundings as their motif. The plethora of motifs not only serve to instill diversity in the works that harbor a highly refined and vivid color scheme—as well as a free sense of composition—but simultaneously convey an impressive structural consistency. This can indeed be recognized as Rozendaal’s established and personal style of practice, yet what is more important is the fact that these works approach us as a presentation of a more universal structure that transcends individual diversity and individuality.
The overlapping of diversity and universality exhibited in Rozendaal’s work is reminiscent of the De Stijl (“the style”) movement that developed in his home country of the Netherlands. The activities of the De Stijl group were characterized by the very way in which the opposing aspects of pure abstraction and concreteness coalesced with one another. Concreteness, not limited to the context of art, is in itself the individuality and specificity of all things that exist in our everyday life and within nature.
Nonetheless, under the same principle, the diverse concreteness and the unique quality of things are also recognized to be a sense of diversity that emerges from structures conceived through shared basic elements. What is important is not diversity conceived from a priori operation of arbitrarily established basic elements, but rather how we recognize it as a sense of universality that is inductively derived from diversity. That is to say, the characteristic of Rozendaal’s works is indeed the fact that we as viewers experience the process of shifting from the individual (from furniture and textiles to carpets and vessels) to the universal.
Here lies the importance of us sensing the succession of possibilities found in the works of Theo van Doesburg and Bart van der Leck—two prominent founders of the De Stijl movement—within Rozendaal’s oeuvre. It is none other than the workings of the artist who does not refuse the miscellaneous diversity of the world (including gadgets and kitsch that brim with the air of contemporary civilization) but instead accepts it affirmatively in a further attempt to discern within it a common universality. One could perhaps say that what is observed in Rozendaal’s work is a formative intention that manifests as the artist’s ethical attitude towards the world.
The central work of this exhibition, Abstract Browsing tapestries, is a series of paintings that abstractly reimagine the screen composition of web pages, and is based on the browser plugin Abstract Browsing developed by Rozendaal in 2014. This free software, which is also available for Google Chrome, serves to invert the information (image, placement, text) on the web page into a geometric arrangement of bright colors. Rozendaal used this program to produce over 1000 images from well-known service websites, and from them deliberately selected compositions that “did not require beauty” to transform into paintings.
As mentioned in his previous solo exhibition Somewhere, by using textiles as a medium, he traces back to the origins of weaving machines and computers. By depicting the progression towards digitalization diachronically through the actual interweaving of the warp and weft threads, he conveys to us that what is created from computer art is not always projected upon a screen. This artwork embodies the thought and humor that can be described as most characteristic of Rozendaal’s work.
Moreover, it presents us with an experience that differs from looking at Rozendaal’s work on the web and his lenticular prints, as one that appeals not only to the eye but also to the sense of touch. This effect is created by weaving multilayered surfaces of red, blue, green, and fluorescent-hued threads in a jacquard loom. The richness of the soft colors in the large-scale tapestries brings to mind a sense of structural coloration, naturally instilling us with the pleasure of contemplating the multiple overlapping concepts.
This exhibition also features several works from his recent Shadow Objects series. These works consist of aluminum plates incised with several geometric shapes by using a laser cutter. To replicate the specific shapes that appear in his web works, an industrial algorithm is used to calculate the composition that delivers the most efficient use of materials. Of course, while the appearance of the works is defined both by the light within a given space and the perspective of the viewer, it is well known that within art history there are numerous examples of works concerning the use of light and shadow.
In “Cathédrales de Rouen,” Claude Monet depicted the sanctity of light, shadow, and time as underlying themes for the work; Rozendaal, however, conveys the fluctuating changes in the light and shadow that surround the objects with their laser-cut geometric forms. The former is a change directly perceived through the sensibility of the artist, and the latter takes the contrasting approach of illuminating nature through the appropriation of programs and the web.
That is to say, Rozendaal is an artist with the idea that both the laws of nature and the laws created by human beings (i.e., programs and concepts) can respectively be connoted within the works. This tendency can also be observed in his web-based works. When looking at Shadow Objects as a collective artwork, one can see that the shading cutout through precise computation and equipment present themselves as composed presences that seemingly embody the laws of nature—as though even the light and shadow have been conceived according to a program. As can be surmised from the title that seemingly references Donald Judd’s Specific Objects, the horizons of ‘hard conceptual’ fostered within American art is perhaps beginning to expand once more as a new “feeling” of the contemporary age.
Rozendaal and his works do not formulate a one-way dominant relationship amidst venturing back and forth between the Internet and the physical world. By tactfully incorporating a sense of poetic esprit into the relationship between his own thoughts and programming, his pieces can perhaps be said to exist within a particular literary frontier that subsumes even the Internet. His interest in writing English haikus reflects this issue in a highly understandable way. The poet, through his haiku, encourages us to recognize the world once again in the context of a minimal reversible poem. Such poems are replete with the ingenuity of an individual who yet continues to ensure a sense of humanism within the extreme limitations of the medium.
Rafaël Rozendaal was born in the Netherlands in 1980. Although based in New York, due to the distinct nature of his practice and lifestyle, he has continued to create works online in numerous places throughout the world without establishing a specific studio. Rozendaal comments that physical works in themselves are virtual presences, and how exhibitions at museums and galleries serve as valuable settings to observe this.
His major exhibitions from 2016 until present include: Digital Abstraction (HEK, Basel), New Gameplay (Nam June Paik Art Center, Seoul), Doings & Knots (Tallin Art Hall, Estonia), Insomnia (Bonniers Kunsthall, Stockholm), Brown Family Collection (Kunsthall Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Sleep Mode: The Art of the Screensaver (Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam), and in Japan he has participated in the Kenpoku Festival, a new international art festival taking place across six municipalities in the northern Ibaraki Prefecture. Rozendaal’s works are included in the public collections of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Museum of the Image MOTI (Breda, the Netherlands), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), among others.
Rafaël Rozendaal | Convenient
Cooperation: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Exhibition period: 2017.6.24 (sat) – 7.29 (sat)
Opening reception: 6.24 (sat) 18:00 – 20:00
Tuesday – Saturday 12:00 – 19:00 (Closed on Sundays, Mondays and National Holidays)
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