The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Subversive Charm of the Bourgeoisie
ELT Mesens with Nelly and Theo van Doesburg in Paris, 1923.

EINDHOVEN.- Today’s artists are once again articulating modest proposals and are also looking to art’s history as a source of inspiration. Where does the revived interest for both abstract and figurative painting, drawing, collage and sculpture come from? How does it relate to the long history of artworks made using similar techniques? The exhibition begins with a reference to two possible starting points. One is the ‘bourgeois’ origins of the Van Abbemuseum itself, founded seventy years ago by Henri van Abbe. The other, serving as a marked contrast or imagined alternative, is the creation of the International Collection of Modern Art in 1931 by the A.R. (Real Avant Garde) group of artists based in the Polish city of Łódź.

The period between 1910 and 1940, especially the 1920s, is increasingly interesting to young artists. We traditionally approach this dynamic period from the standpoint of individual, consecutive movements and make a sharp distinction between avant-garde and modernist trends, between Dadaism and Constructivism, or De Stijl and Surrealism. Today a young generation of artists claims a renewed freedom to explore the aesthetics, forms and functions of both abstract and figurative style elements, without worrying about the distinctions of art history. Is this where the radicalism of the old avant-garde movements and the aesthetics of the bourgeoisie meet each other?

Perhaps artists at that time left certain things unsaid, which today (eighty years later) we are able to articulate in a different way. Meanwhile, art has moved out of the shadow of the anti-aesthetic, Marxist art theories of the ’60 and ‘70s that condemned the bourgeoisie to history. Things are looser now but one thing is certain – linking the past to the present is always ambiguous. Appearances are misleading. The exhibition is finally only about bourgeois ‘elements’ not the whole. For instance, the artwork ‘Warsaw Rug’ by Paulina Ołowska is a painting turned into applied art. The city and its architecture become adornment, where at the same time the Utopian dream of the city appears once more. The different imaginations expressed in works by James Ensor and El Lissitzky find themselves linked in the wall paintings of Richard Wright.

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