In Bergamo the first Italian retrospective dedicated to Birgit Jürgenssen, protagonist of the feminist avant-garde

I Am is the first major retrospective that an Italian museum institution dedicates to Birgit Jürgenssen (Vienna, 1949 -2003), among the most important and sophisticated interpreters of the international feminist avant-garde. GAMeC - Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo from March 7 to May 19, 2019 pays tribute to this extraordinary and still undervalued artist by hosting an exhibition project, curated by Natascha Burger and Nicole Fritz, created in close collaboration with Estate Birgit Jürgenssen, Kunsthalle Tübingen(Germany) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk(Denmark).

A refined interpreter of the instances of her time, Birgit Jürgenssen drew on the languages of Surrealism to treat social conventions, sexuality, canons of beauty and gender relations with an ironic language and subversive humor that often involved the image of the artist herself. The staged body is never ostentatiously displayed, but rather concealed and then revealed through the use of masks, inserts, and natural materials, almost like extensions, or prostheses, useful for plumbing the psychological and emotional depths of the feminine. Divided into six sections, Io sono will offer an insight into the Austrian artist’s production through more than 150 works created over forty years of research, including drawings, collages, sculptures, photographs, rayograms, gouaches and cyanotypes.

The exhibition will occupy all the rooms of the Gallery, and will display works covering the entire span of her career, from her childhood drawings, signed "BICASSO," to her more mature, large-format works, passing through linguistic and literary games, which tell the contamination between narrative and representation, until focusing, in the central part, on the two great themes that distinguish the artist’s research: gender and nature.

Birgit Jürgenssen originally intended above all to show and challenge “the prejudices and behavior patterns to which women are subjected within society.” To do so she adopted a biting irony, playing with different concepts of identity. The private home, seen as a place deputed to female functions, becomes, in her works, a place of constraint, and everyday objects such as shoes, clothes and stoves are presented enigmatically or sarcastically. The artist thus interrogates and deconstructs the myth of men’s power and desire without falling into the trap of a simplified dualism, extending her reflection to all gender models, both male and female, codified by society.

But since the 1970s his thinking has evolved, opening up to new considerations on the profound nature of man and the nature-culture relationship. These themes, hitherto sidelined in the artist’s account of experience, find ample description within the exhibition. Structuralism, Psychoanalysis andEthnology have indeed stimulated Birgit Jürgenssen to question the dialectic between the animal, instinctual component and female identity, and the devaluation and fetishism of the object.

Jürgenssen’s “wild thinking” drives her to trace on her own body the relationships between man and animal. In this process the artist gives life to hybrid creatures, in which the animal is anchored, grafted inside the human being, according to a system of fluid relationships. The same happens with plant elements, through a series of works that challenge the most common anthropocentric view, promoting a systemic point of view around the processes of the living. What finds expression in the artist’s works are bodies perceived not as forms but as “formations,” living organisms that promote a “deep” ecological sensitivity, a concern for the intrinsic value of species, systems and natural processes.

Birgit Jürgenssen’s work takes on a new meaning in our present: at a historical moment when we are witnessing the questioning of fundamental principles and rights and a progressive trivialization of issues related to women and, more generally, to gender identity, her approach that is not rigidly ideological but more rooted in the individual and intimate sphere infuses the emancipatory power of art with new concreteness.

Accompanying the exhibition is a monographic catalog, published by Prestel, with contributions by Patricia Allmer, Michael Bracewell, Louisa Buck, Natascha Burger, Maurizio Cattelan, Melissa Destino, Marta Dziewańska, Heike Eipeldauer, Nicole Fritz, Lorenzo Giusti, Jessica Morgan, Marta Papini, Gabriele Schor, Jasper Sharp, Abigail SolomonGodeau, and Ninja Walbers.

On the occasion of the retrospective, the Public Program, the platform of encounters open to the public created in collaboration with the G. Carrara Academy of Fine Arts, will address gender issues involving philosophers, historians and scholars of the feminist movement, artists and literary scholars. In parallel, the Gallery’s Educational Services will offer a rich program of workshops, both for children and adults, aimed at reflecting on the theme of roles in society and encouraging interaction and dialogue between genders.

Birgit Jürgenssen was born in 1949 in Vienna, where she lived and worked most of her life. She died in Vienna in 2003. Her work has been presented in major solo and retrospective exhibitions at prestigious Austrian institutions such as the Kunstforum (Vienna), MAK (Vienna) and SAMMLUNG VERBUND (Vienna). His work has been included in group exhibitions at MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York (USA); the Monnaie de Paris (France); Tate St. Ives (Great Britain); the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (USA); the 2014 Gwangju Biennial (South Korea); Centre Pompidou, Paris (France); and the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (Germany). His works can be found in prestigious public and private collections, including: MoMA - Museum of Modern Art, New York (USA); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (USA); Tate Britain, London (Great Britain); Centre Pompidou, Paris (France); Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne (Switzerland); Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna (Austria); mumok, Vienna (Austria); Albertina, Graphic Arts, Vienna (Austria); MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (Austria).

For all information you can call +39 035 270272 or visit the official website of GAMeC.

Pictured: untitled photo byBirgit Jürgenssen (Estate Birgit Jürgenssen / Galerie Hubert Winter, Vienna)

Source: press release

In Bergamo the first Italian retrospective dedicated to Birgit Jürgenssen, protagonist of the feminist avant-garde
In Bergamo the first Italian retrospective dedicated to Birgit Jürgenssen, protagonist of the feminist avant-garde

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