Jan Albers works seamlessly across various media. Having studied painting at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf he sensed early on that working within the established protocols of paint and canvas felt limiting. Thus his practice sees him fold, cast, paint, shape, cajole and pressure material to make objects that conflate and enliven the orthodoxies of the dominant genres.
As much as Albers wished as a student to eschew convention his work touches lightly on various 20th century moments. One feels echoes of Judd and Chamberlain in their robust materiality and determined “object” status, the visceral impact of Fontana’s puncturing of the picture plane in his “chain-saw” lacerations. But there are also reverberations in form and composition that recall his namesake Anni Albers’ refined geometries or Frank Stella’s shaped canvases. Critically though Jan’s work has an extraordinary sense of contemporaneity. As cognizant as he clearly is of history, he feels determined to extend his own artistic vocabulary so that it embraces a range of connections both to architecture, even the environment complete with its blend of allure and toxicity.
There is no conceptual or fashionable expediency in this recycling urge but simply Albers work occasionally converts the low-brow and discarded – in a spirit closer to Dada perhaps than it is to a mindful recycling ethos. Stephen Berg has described…“the entire picture is actually a permanent construction site alternating between destruction and repair.” This altercation between making and unmaking, harmony and disharmony runs through all of his work. One gets the sense that Albers views most material as potentially “uncooperative” and unruly – something to be tamed or at the very least bridled.
In all of his works you are compelled to look into them rather than at them from a respectful distance – the enticement and persuasion of the poisonous perhaps. Their complex topography, their nooks and crannies, their structural depth and intricacy suggest an entirely different reading of space that isn’t pictorial nor is it truly sculptural. Whatever the case Albers is certainly up-dating the bas-relief and its traditional viewpoint.
This is the second major solo exhibition hosted by the galleries, and the first for Auckland. Included are major new works across the material breadth that Albers traverses, including the extravagant “boulders” – great asteroid forms that collide with the wall, new faceted sculptures in bronze, stone and aluminium and Albers’ grand wedge constructions. Together the exhibition demonstrates just how innovative Albers’ work is and, despite his resistance to the jaded orthodoxies of painting, his is a practice that renews our faith in paintings’ capacities to startle and provoke our senses.
Jan Albers will be present at the exhibition.