Bernar Venet: Mathematica 06. November 2015 - 31. December 2015

The French artist Bernar Venet is famous for his numerous COR-TEN steel sculptures occupying public spaces of many metropolises. With lengths of up to 40 meters, the immense tetragonal arcs constitute incisive marks in cultured landscapes. In Berlin, for instance, it is almost impossible to overlook his steel bow Arc 124,5° (1987, COR-TEN steel, welded and painted black, spread 40 m wide, 12 m high, weight 15t, based on a concrete block of 100t in the ground) in the center of the city at the street called “An der Urania”. Bernar Venet’s art, however, contains much more and reaches further back in the past, than his iron trademarks may lead one to believe.

Venet’s work takes its onset in the beginning of the 60ies, at which point he breaks with the symbolic painting of his youth and makes his breakthrough in form of the most radical image conceptions of this time with a series of tar paintings at the age of 20. Besides paintings with tar or industrial lacquer on paper, cardboard or canvas, Venet also diverts his attention to black mirrors, representational outlines for future works of art and mathematical formulas painted out on canvas. This is accompanied by photographic blow-ups, artist´s books, geometrical shaped canvases, which visualize certain angles, reliefs done in wood and steel, and the previously mentioned sculptures made out of COR-TEN steel for gallery and public space, MRI images and after 2001 paintings of mathematical formulas juxtaposed over one another in saturated colours, which predominantly form the main spectacle for this exhibition.

The entire œvre can be described as a constant progression of single work groups, which Venet produced over several decades. Although these work groups may differ in terms of style and content, they nevertheless are built rationally on one another, better said: together they operate as the interchanging gears of a well-oiled machine. They function as equal parts of a bigger “system” that illustrate the visualisation and materialisation of the phenomenon of logic and ontology within the realm of art.

What keeps the system together in its very core? Venet himself provides the viewer with a hint at the sum of his artistic equation in his works with a poem of five very short verses, which points out the basic conditions of his efforts:

Non virtuel.
Sans illusion.
Sans apparence.
Ni métaphore.

Following these premises we are ultimately made able to see the artworks for what they are: tar-soaked cardboards, formulas, angles or arcs of steel. These works are not illustrating anything in particular, they are not pointing toward anything exterior, other that being an object within its own right. Their existence and statement are congruent.

The current series “Saturations”, on view at Michael Fuchs, connects monochrome backgrounds, particular canvas-shapes with text fragments and formulas. Using cut outs, fragmentation and cross fading, Venet introduces the limits of semantic information, the limits of sign and signified in his general work for the first time. Yet while the congruence of sign/shape and clarity of the signified is always guaranteed in his former works, the new formations of numbers and letters emanate with a new freedom of expression caused by the juxtaposition of elements in the composition.

* Bernar Venet in “Póeme“ – Art conceptuel, une entologie (Paris;éditions mix, 2008), 370


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