First solo exhibition in Austria by Rebecca Warren opens at The Belvedere 21
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First solo exhibition in Austria by Rebecca Warren opens at The Belvedere 21
Rebecca Warren, "The inscrutable passage of an alien or godly intelligence", 2019 (detail). Mixed media on plywood, 30 x 43 x 8 cm © Rebecca Warren, courtesy Maureen Paley, Galerie Max Hetzler, and Matthew Marks Gallery. Photo: Angus Mill.

VIENNA.- Having achieved international renown with her sculptures, collages and vitrines, Rebecca Warren has been among contemporary art’s most prominent protagonists for more than twenty years. The Belvedere 21 presents the first solo exhibition in Austria by this seminal British sculptor.

Stella Rollig, General Director of the Belvedere: “At a time of rising interest in figurative representations in the visual arts, Rebecca Warren stands out as a pioneer and role model. The home of Fritz Wotruba’s estate offers an appropriate frame of reference for this highly topical perspective in sculpture.”

Rebecca Warren makes sculptures, assemblages, and constructions in a wide variety of materials. Her distinctive and complex oeuvre, blending tradition with the quotidian, seriousness with frivolity, mastery with mismatch, has embodied her attitudes to art and its history. In the late 1990s, Warren became known to a wider audience with her large-scale unfired clay sculptures which were tortuously modelled, scraped, gouged female forms, often with parts—a hand, a breast, a calf, a ponytail—nightmarishly or comically exaggerated. They seemed to engage in an expressive game with female anatomy—ambiguously humorous and grotesque, figurative and abstract, monumental and filigreed.

Subsequently her output broadened, and she began to make sculptures with bronze and steel, as well as making assemblages using a variety of materials, much of it ephemeral including wood, neon and wool.

She has acknowledged early influences up and down the cultural register which she has drawn from— and twisted and transformed—in order to shape and hone her own particular interests and formulate her own narrative. Her range of fascinations—as she describes them—from high to low to absurd to funny, includes artists Umberto Boccioni, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin and Fischli & Weiss; fashion photographer Helmut Newton; cartoonist R. Crumb; as well as images of Disney's Minnie Mouse, and rock stars Iggy Pop and New York Dolls. Works such as Helmut Crumb (1998) and Croccioni (2000) are recognised today as icons of their era, fusing her keen interest in the rampant possibilities of a free attitude to art and its history, psychology, film history and certain regions of pop and punk music in unmistakably dense and well-reflected visual syntheses.

On the exhibition

Rebecca Warren’s solo exhibition The Now Voyager at Belvedere 21 consists of nine new, large handpainted bronze sculptures on variously coloured plinths, and a number of new wall-based neon collages.

Many of these sculptures (which in their variety Warren likens to the cast of aliens in the bar scene in Star Wars) are broadly figurative, and some are additionally top heavy, leaning, working against gravity, straining against their own bulk and weight. The collages, made of neon, household paint, wool and other elements are presences of a different order: they suggest a strange system of communications manifested as glyphs, oddly familiar peripheral glimpses and distant, nocturnal vistas.

Warren has also developed a unique way of choreographing the placement and relationships of her works in order to optimise both overall coherence and their individual presences. The five large-scale, architectonic walls, which she designed specifically for this exhibition, structure and adapt the space and give rhythm to the content of her show.

The exhibition title The Now Voyager is a nuanced variation on a phrase in Walt Whitman’s short poem The Untold Want which, in its entirety, reads: The untold want by life and land ne’er granted, Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find. Warren’s addition of the definite article renders the phrase as a noun, as in: the voyager in nowness itself. In Warren's case, this might well refer to her urgent and present artistic autonomy, which must be constantly regained and defended.

Curator Axel Köhne: Rebecca Warrens works, closely connected to her in many subtle ways, are the result of both determined, concentrated, long-drawn-out acts of attention to what is being communicated to her by the world and her unconscious, and to the meanings and physical forms this attention can give rise to.

Rebecca Warren (b. 1965) lives and works in London. She was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2006 and the Vincent Award in 2008. Her work was included in the 54th Venice Biennale (2011) and is held in the permanent collections of museums internationally. She has had solo shows at museums and galleries across Europe and the United States including Musée National Eugène Delacroix, Paris (2018); Le Consortium, Dijon (2018); Tate St Ives (2017); Dallas Museum of Art (2016); Kunstverein Munich (2013); The Art Institute of Chicago (2010); and the Serpentine Gallery, London (2009). She was appointed Professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2014 and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to Art in 2020.

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