Luca Frei's second institutional exhibition in Switzerland on view at Kunsthaus Glarus
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Luca Frei's second institutional exhibition in Switzerland on view at Kunsthaus Glarus
In addition to existing works, Luca Frei is also showing new works developed especially for the exhibition spaces at Kunsthaus Glarus.

GLARUS.- The somewhat bemusing yet poetic title of the solo exhibition by Swiss artist Luca Frei (born 1976 in Lugano, lives in Malmö) is based on an excerpt from Gertrude Stein’s novel Mrs. Reynolds. In the book, Gertrude Stein grapples with the events of the Second World War from the micro-perspective of a married couple. While the war rages on elsewhere, the protagonists count the days by retreating into repetitive, banal, and oddly poetic conversational rituals. In his exhibition, Luca Frei transposes the visitor to a similar timeless state of being and challenges to experience things with a shifted perspective. His works take aim at the gaps in present day events and open up for the visitor symbolic spaces of action. Frequently, the works invite the public to actively participate, but without providing any clear instructions. In employing such ambiguities, he focuses on fundamental issues concerning private and public, unconscious and conscious, but also identity and memory. He works in a wide range of mediums such as painting, photography, collage, video and installation. Drawing and the line, as he suggests, being the main component with a focus on simple and immediate reaction and intervention for the artist. He invites his audience to ponder their own flood of images, associations, and experiences. Ultimately, this invitation to actively take part in the exhibition also provides the opportunity to reflect upon one’s own role in the present.

Kunsthaus Glarus presents the artist’s second institutional exhibition in Switzerland, which follows his show at the Museo Cantonale d’Arte in Lugano (2010). A catalogue is being published in cooperation with the Bonner Kunstverein.

In addition to existing works, Luca Frei is also showing new works developed especially for the exhibition spaces at Kunsthaus Glarus. In the Schneeli Gallery, he has developed a new photo work titled Inheritance (2013) for the entire space that draws from his late father’s archive of photographic negatives. He presents at knee-level a series of re-photographed sheets from the storage binders that his father, a professional photographer, used to archive his negatives. These images ring the room like a frieze, or an abstract musical score that accompanies the movement of the audience in the space. They serve as an unidentifiable supply for the selection of prints which are presented at eye-level. These are photographs of daily life from the Canton of Ticino where he grew up in the 1970s and 80s. Passport images, interior spaces, sporting events, the visible and concealed, conscious and unconscious, personal and collective histories are extracted from the archive. In so doing, the images enter into a dialogue with the public, its memories or expectations. In the seemingly random nature of the moments plucked from the flow of history a charged space of competing interests emerges between collective history and the anecdotal character of life as witnessed by the individual.

In the side-lit gallery, Luca Frei analyses the relationship between segment and whole. At the same time, he also has an eye on the individual’s sphere of influence in relation to overarching structures. The artistic strategy he employs in this space comprises primarily line and drawing, as well as segmentation and overall arrangement. The installation What Time is It? (2009) consists of a configuration of partly slanted, rounded wall elements arranged within the space. They form a structure made up of multiple architectonic segments. Only upon closer inspection do the partial views join together to form a larger whole. Luca Frei thus points out the individual’s challenge of orienting oneself within the given spatial structures, whose interrelationship—as is frequently the case with modern architecture—is not immediately revealed. A very similar interplay of section and whole is presented in the wall piece Keywords after Raymond Williams (2013), for which Frei developed, along with British graphic designer Will Holder, a typographic vocabulary composed of template segments. The typography is based on the artist’s own handwriting but is also constructed systematically out of component forms. Using this typeface, Frei and Holder have constructed words like “work”, “ordinary”, “myth”, “tradition” and “class” on the back wall of the exhibition hall. All of the terms are taken from Raymond William’s 1976 book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. They are both familiar and completely abstract at the same time. In these terms individual life experiences collide with structural meanings. Frei and Holder experiment with this field of conflicting interests by fixing it in a typeface that is both individual and constructed. Situated on the floor and leaning against the window façades in the same room is the two-part piece CH-8750 (2010-2013). It is an approximately fifty-meter-long flexible interconnection of numerous wooden rods and chains. Exhibition visitors are invited to reposition the elements and thus continually create new constellations. A playful impartiality and openness to chance defines this work, which continually changes as a collectively designed, poetic drawing in space.

In the top-lit gallery Frei again unfolds a multi-layered repertoire derived from drawing. And again interventions by the public as well as the artist and different aspects of time play a central role. On the metal shelves of the installation The Sun Twenty Four Hours (2011), featuring sixty glass-blown sand dials invite visitors to leave behind their own temporal traces, such as the length of time spent in the exhibition. Happenstance also played a part in choosing the work’s title: discovered in the shipping boxes were pages of the Italian financial newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that had been used to wrap the sand dials. Time is not only individual lifespan but also a collective bartering object in the system of economics. Such questions concerning the tension between individual meaning and collective societal context run throughout the entire exhibition. The factor of happenstance, which does not fit between these two poles, makes up the third component of the central reference points in Luca Frei’s artistic universe. A video work titled Casualty and Agency (2013) and screened on two monitors shows the randomly generated tracks of an ink drawing made by the artist while working. In producing a series of glass works titled Stitched (Lines of Least Resistance, 2012) random breaks were created in sheets of glass. The seams were then reconnected using a technique from leaded glass painting to produce a variety of abstract drawings dependent on the tension of the material and manipulation by the artist. The wall drawing titled The End of Summer (2010) depicts a closed circle on the wall and a nylon string affixed to its center with a wrinkled end and a missing piece of charcoal. The viewer is left to speculate on the meaning of the self-contained graphic gesture and the way it was created over time. Is it, as the title would suggest, to be interpreted as a mildly nostalgic expression of a summertime diversion? The answer is for the individual viewer to decide. The same is also true for the two new works, Strength (2013), the chairs arranged in two interlocking circles facing in and out, and the photo series North East South West (2013) of rear view images of truck tarps secured with tie downs and ready for export from a company archive. The works combine formal rigor and tongue-in-cheek poetry. But they do not offer answers, instead they confront seemingly rigid structures with creative play and an open end. Like this, processes despite a rigid setting open up spaces for creative intervention, subtle analogies and poetic moments.

Luca Frei has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally in recent years, including The Fifth Business at the Bonner Kunstverein (solo, 2012), Aufruf zur Alternative, Kunstsammlung NRW, Düsseldorf (2011), The Moderna Exhibition 2010, Moderna Museet Stockholm (2010), All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerpen (2009), Audio, video, disco, Kunsthalle Zürich (2009). He also won the Swiss Art Award in 2009 and was an IASPIS resident in 2005.

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