coffee, cake and sauerkraut (a weekend of art in amsterdam)
commentary and image by Karin Bos
published 23 january 2009 Bohemian Aesthetic e-zine, Los Angeles
amsterdam dispatch | volume 1 • number 4
The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam's main institute for modern art, has been closed for renovation for quite some time now. In an attempt not to entirely water down its significance, it opened a temporary space—SMCS—now closed, too. So, nowadays, the The Stedelijk collection is homeless, stored in an undisclosed location, and the construction site at Museum Square doesn't look as if it will be ready anytime soon. Now and then, parts of the collection pop up in various places around town. Presently, the Van Gogh Museum is hosting a show of French fauvists and German expressionists.
Also, to touch base with the public, the Stedelijk invented the 'Bouwkeet'. It's a small container based on those in which construction site workers have lunch or that are commonly used for storage. The Bouwkeet is traveling through town until the re-opening of the Stedelijk Museum in what looks to be 2010. Its current location is the riverside in Amsterdam North. It's so small that no actual art works can be displayed there, and only 15 people can fit inside. It merely functions as a coffee corner and info desk, as opposed to an alternative exhibition space.
Recently, after having a coffee at the Bouwkeet, I went to the other riverbank to attend the two day group show 'Route 88' at Dek West/De Bonte Zwaan, an exhibition space and artists studio located in a former sailing company building that floats in Amsterdam's river IJ.
The 11 participating artists of "Route 88" all graduated in 1988 from the Amsterdam Academy of Fine Art's Department of Painting, Drawing and Printing. They kept in touch for 20 years and celebrated this with an anniversary show. Next to the cake, paintings, drawings, and prints, the exhibit also contained jewellery, varied objects, and photography. The artists only showed their current work, so it wasn't possible to compare it to their graduation pieces and assess the development in their work.
Noor van der Brugge presented several artists' books, among which I discovered the linoleum cut and letterpress 'They all of them know', based on a poem by Charles Bukowski. I always admire artists who have the patience to print books by hand, page by page. 'They all of them know' is an edition comprised of nine copies; that's do-able.
But I also know of a book, by Dutch artist Helga Kos, that was worked on for five years! That time-consuming project began with a simple commission to create a CD cover. 'Ode aan de Kolossale Zon' is based on 'Last Poems of Wallace Stevens' and contains, beside the CD artwork, 150 hand-printed pages made from several printing techniques in an edition of 288 copies. I visited Kos while she was working on it in the printing studio at Rijksacademie, and she looked like a monk…an anachronism in this 21st century art world with all of its newfangled media. The students at Rijksacademie even called her 'the dinosaur', she informed me.
Another show I visited the same weekend of 'Route 88' was 'Salon Fantastique', a one-day affair at Just van der Loos' studio. Van der Loos displayed his installations alongside ceramic sculptures by Gerrit-Jan van Ham.
The theme of this campy party/show was 'German style'. Both artists were dressed in lederhosen, and the music, food, drinks, invitation card, everything was…you guessed it…in German style. "Rauchen erlaubt" (smoking allowed), read the card, typical of van Ham's humor, also quite evident in his art. His ceramic figures of over-the-top divas, bodybuilders, drunks, and gossiping sisters, all grouped in a dollhouse, are whimsical and smile-inducing, simultaneously wrapped up in recognition and compassion. No cynicism—just, in his own (German) words, "Super! Spitze! Toll!"
|Sisters by Gerrit Jan van Ham|