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DAAD Artists at Deutsches Haus

Everyday Formalism: A group show hosted by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Deutsches Haus at NYU

Friday, September 28, 2012, 6:30 p.m.

The DAAD New York office in cooperation with the Deutsches Haus at NYU will host an exhibition of the work of five DAAD grant recipients in the field of fine art, curated by DAAD Alumna Elizabeth M. Grady and will feature works by the five artists:

Johanna Jaeger
Bettina Johae
Johannes Kersting
Katherine Newbegin
Asya Reznikov

The opening will feature a conversation with the curator Elisabeth M. Grady.

How much do you really know about your world? Could you recall its minutest details? The artists in this exhibition can. By focusing on overlooked corners of their worlds through a formally elegant and conceptually tinted lens, they variously valorize, memorialize, and hold images at arm's length to reveal the beauty and meaning of ordinary everyday buildings and landscapes. 

Proceeding from a formalist perspective, where photographs are composed using the conventions of modernist abstract painting like color, form, and composition, Johannes Kersting creates eloquent reminders of the inherent beauty found in even the most mundane of settings. In his work, the object becomes aestheticized - a shipping container, furniture, the exterior of a drab Italian cineplex - all are subjected to the disciplining frame of his camera lens, where the sky and other backgrounds become flat, yet painterly areas of color, resulting in a kind of photographic Mondrian. 

Also playing with the conventions of painting, Katherine Newbegin creates "portraits" of Indian cinemas by carefully observing symmetry from the viewpoint of a person walking down an aisle. While Bollywood films have flash and glamour, the cinemas where they are shown rarely receive the same treatment. Newbegin highlights the fading glamour of movie theaters’ colorful and elegant interiors in her carefully framed photographs. She records cinemas' former glory, along with life's traces, freezing them at this moment in time for eternity in a manner akin to a portrait by Jan van Eyck or Hans Memling. As in such paintings, these images are a way of memorializing their existence at a time when they are disappearing, recording them for posterity and preserving their memory for future generations.  

Using picture postcards and photography, Asya Reznikov indicates the constructed nature of reality and identity in her series Relocating Home. She builds sculptures of buildings from tourist images, then superimposes the sculptures over the real thing by holding them in front of the original. Leaving her own hand holding the sculptures visible, she seems to be experimenting with different ways of seeing herself in relation to her surroundings, as she explores the dissonance between iconic images of cities like New York or Berlin and negotiates between expectation and experience, while identity construction is thrown into sharp relief through contrasts highlighted by travel. By manipulating perception in such an obvious manner, she uses the formal possibilities of photography to investigate the dissonance of social and cultural displacement. 

In her series Eminent Domain, Bettina Johae, too, addresses abstraction of a different kind. Here, she highlights the connection between a public place - either a park or a government-occupied building or land parcel - and the information that Eminent Domain erased from it. Eminent Domain is a term used to describe areas forcibly reclaimed by the city from private individuals, who are compensated for the loss of their property and/or businesses. She recovers the lost visual and historical information through research and relocates it through an ambitious mapping project, which will eventually be available online. Her project thus engages the issues of memory and identity which she shares with Newbegin and Reznikov, while adopting a kind of reverse-alienation for information that used to be a part of the fabric of the city and everyday life. 

This process of alienation is used by Johanna Jäger in reverse, as she distances perception by rendering three-dimensional spaces two-dimensional and by removing the viewer from the immediacy of a space through the means of photography. Through these formal means, she encourages a sober contemplation of the spatial and aesthetic properties of her studio space and the way this changes as she alters it for each new image.  

Examining the spaces they occupy and pass through, these artists encourage a closer visual reading of the world, and a deeper acknowledgement of everyday spaces, using the tricks of their trade - the formal characteristics of photography - as an investigative tool and a means of revealing the hidden. 

Elizabeth M. Grady, Ph.D., is a curator and critic, and Program Manager of smARTpower, a U.S. State-Department program run by the Bronx Museum which sent fifteen artists to fifteen countries to do six-week art projects which engage local communities (2010-2012). She curated Proyecto Paladar, a large-scale participatory food-based installation project for the 11th Bienal de la Habana, which opened in May 2012, and is currently writing a book documenting the project. She has been Adjunct Professor of Art History and in the Graduate School at FIT-SUNY since 2002. Recent projects include a 20-artist exhibition, The Situation, for the Moscow Biennale (2009), the Biennial of the Canary Islands (2009), and project coordination of a major Matthew Ritchie archiving and conservation project. She has curated numerous exhibitions in the United States, and has held curatorial positions in various institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Publications include Matthew Ritchie: More than the eye (Rizzoli, 2009) and The Situation (Moscow Biennale, 2009), and essays for numerous exhibition catalogues.
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