This exhibition, made up of over sixty works by Robert Therrien (Chicago, 1947), opens the possibility of a more in-depth look at the artistic discourse of a young North American artist whose work has only recently started to receive international recognition, despite his career beginning at the end of the sixties. Therrien's art can be found, voluntarily, somewhere between painting and sculpture, blurring the boundaries of art practices; it recognises the simplicity of process, of formal references and the resulting work. Yet the artist eludes any classification and does not ascribe to current waves of contemporary art such as Post-minimalism.
Experimentation with the possibilities of colour and the materials used (canvas, bronze, wood, oil, enamel) is the way in which he creates textured coloured surfaces and subjective forms, with Therrien himself declaring that: “Colour, texture and brush strokes transport the object into the real world whilst multiplying the associations.” This approach sets in motion the beginning of the interaction with space, which has a bearing on the perception of his work. In light of his particular interest in creating a dynamic relationship between figure and ground, Therrien displays a considerable preoccupation with spatial ambiguity (non-dimensionality, recreating the three-dimensional appearance of an object), which in turn has an effect on the visual recognition of the breadth, depth and solidity of the works. Moreover, refusing to name his work - he believes that a title restricts and determines it - accentuates its ambiguous nature.
When contemplating this selection of pieces spanning over the twenty-year career of the artist, there is the recurring use of simple and symbolically familiar visual forms (snowmen, coffins, keyholes, shoe boxes, flagpoles), in many cases personifying his own memories and experiences, as, for instance, in his reference to the Dutch doors from his grandfather's house. In Blue Oval (1983), he identifies the geometric form with femininity and links it to the figure of his mother, and, similarly, the coffin he uses appears to him as a masculine image, probably in reference to his father. Yet these forms are ultimately revealed as invented from ideal objects or displaced so that Therrien can assign them a different function and meaning.
This American artist's paintings, drawings and sculptures are the result of a process whereby subjective experience has been transformed into a generic and technical form, on a human scale, that is intellectually controlled. In the words of the exhibition's curator, Margit Rowell: “Robert Therrien's work is not nostalgic art wishing to go back to a previous place or time. It is a kind of illusion art that rights the reality it is inspired by.”
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