Milan, Olaf Breuning reflects on our digital everyday life in his first Italian solo exhibition

From January 30, 2020 to March 28, 2020, Galleria Poggiali is hosting, at its Milan location, the first Italian solo exhibition of Swiss artist, but American by adoption, Olaf Breuning (Schaffhausen, 1970), entitled We are All In the Same Boat. The Weight of Color and curated by Lorenzo Bruni. Breuning has conceived an immersive environment to reflect on how the current stimuli of daily life are methodically recorded, metabolized and re-proposed by digital “users”: illustrative of this is the large sculpture in the center of the space that consists of a metal staircase, on which is mounted the polished steel silhouette of a stylized face with a heart in the center. The two-dimensional structure becomes volumetric and elusive as a result of the images it inexorably reflects. This “multidisciplinary” and “multidimensional” dimension is adopted by the artist throughout the exhibition and also involves black India ink drawings depicting ’possible’ but imaginary scenes intended to suggest an unprecedented intimate and choral narrative.

The works that make up the exhibition itinerary of We Are All In the Same Boat are from different years and media, and are as much site-specific works as they are autonomous images, placed by the artist in a new, close dialogue to introduce some food for thought on our digital everydayness: for whom are the messages we produce daily in the world of the web and why do we produce them? Olaf Breuning responds by putting in the first place the experiential dimension that has to do with the event in all its physical and psychological aspects. This is why the artist prefers to think of his works as “time specific” works, since they have to do with highlighting the time of the process of the work and its fruition. This approach is the same as that with which the artist has been investigating the concept of color in digital society and in relation to art history for the past decade, that is, with the intention of giving new importance to the moment of the manifestation and transformation of color, rather than as a mere attribute of a form.

“Breuning’s research,” explains curator Lorenzo Bruni, "has always been attentive to social changes and to the images used as instruments of new rituality. Interestingly, in the last decade the artist’s paradoxical irony has increasingly moved toward an ontological, archetypal and universal dimension. Indeed, the works featured in the Milan exhibition (a large site-specific photography installation and his latest video) introduce fundamental clues about his current path. The first work is an image with a strong visual impact, both because it occupies the entirety of one of the walls of the space and because of the subject matter, namely a heterogeneous group of people who, standing inside a boat in the middle of a forest, stare fixedly at the viewer, giving substance to the saying, We Are All In the Same Boat. The second is the video Sunny, in which a child’s face appears in the foreground, intent on watching a unique event that is denied our view. In both cases, these are monuments to awe, to going beyond cultural superstructures, an invitation not to submit to so-called common sense, but to reflect not only on the role of art but also on the role of the conscious viewer in a global, clickable world."

Not only that, the audience will also get to see a work such as Happy painters, chosen by the organizers to represent the exhibition. This photographic image, says Bruni, "constitutes a kind of culmination of Breuning’s approach and his focus on seemingly abstract images in which the instant of creation or the staging of color emerges. Happy painters consists of a group of dripping brushes, each of a monochrome color, to which the eyes and feet of dolls have been applied, anthropomorphizing them; thus the means of production of the pictorial work becomes in this case the subject itself, although the aspect of disquiet comes from the fact that the community of brushes, autonomous and swaggering, appear as observing and judging what they have in front of them by transcending their condition as inanimate objects."

Olaf Breuning has been making works since the mid-1990s that introduce viewers to surreal worlds through performances, films, photographs, sculptures, drawings and, more recently, by means of works related to painting. Among his major works is the giant mural created at Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern (a geometric grid that shielded and defined the traces of color bombs thrown by the public), while his most important exhibitions have been held at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Metro Pictures in New York, and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery in London. For Breuning also an appearance at the 2008 Whitney Biennial. His works are held in museums such as the Kunsthaus in Zurich, the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen, and many others. For all info about the exhibition you can visit the Poggiali Gallery website.

Pictured: Olaf Breuning, We are all in the same boat (2018; c-print, 122 x 155 cm)

Milan, Olaf Breuning reflects on our digital everyday life in his first Italian solo exhibition
Milan, Olaf Breuning reflects on our digital everyday life in his first Italian solo exhibition

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