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Between Looking and Seeing

Group show with the works of Ryan Gander, Apostolos Georgiou, Július Koller, Jirí Kovanda, Hassan Sharif
gb agency, Paris
March 25 - April 22, 2023

Taking its title from Ryan Gander’s installation, our current collective exhibition, Between Looking and Seeing, interrogates the way we perceive works of art, from furtive glances drowned by images in our social media feeds, to abysmally opposed states of meditative contemplation.

Ryan Gander’s Intervals between looking and seeing (2021) opens the exhibition by calling our attention to a pile of torches of all forms and coming from different epochs.They are all turned off except for a stubborn one, lighting intermittently as if short of battery.The torches act as projectors of the gaze and the mind, often we only perceive works of art during an unpredictable instant, in a kind of luminous beam of our attention.

Inside the exhibition room, we encounter Julius Koller’s Ping Pong U.F.O. (2004), part of Koller’s paradigmatic works in which he invited the viewers to change their way of perceiving societal dictates through the alteration of rules and fields of play. From the mid-1960s onwards, the late Slovakian artist performed small interruptive acts in public and private spaces, creating situations that insinuated how reality might be and become different. Such modest acts might consist of, for instance, staging table tennis matches in art spaces.

On top of this work lays U.F.O. - Image, Anti-Image, 1978 (U.F.O. - Obraz, Anti-Obraz, 1978). In an echo to the space exploration, around 1970, Julius Koller imagined a sign system in the form of Moebius rings addressed to extraterrestrials.The Moebius knot, which winds around itself while unfolding to infinity, is a symbol of the continuous, here visibly marked with the letters U.F.O. One central action in Koller’s work involved finding ever-new permutations of this acronym. For the artist, “U.F.O.” acted as the linguistic embodiment of the fluidity that he sought to achieve and to communicate throughout his life. Some meanings of U.F.O imprinted in other works included Artistically Fantastic Original, (1977), Universal Futurological Orientation (1971), or Universal Physical-Cultural Organisation (1975-79), among others.

Delimitating the space, Jiri Kovanda takes Koller’s lead to modify our regard. In One Round Table (2008) Kovanda transports “roundness” to the imaginary, while the actual table is now deconstructed in the space. Here, the public reconstructs mentally the round table as the artist decentralises our view towards the corners of the room.

What does an artwork show us? What does it hides from us? The ambivalence of the creative act is further highlighted in Apostolos Georgiou’s ever untitled paintings, in which the artist plays hide-and-seek with reality, moving between the realm of memory and dreams, seriousness and absurdity.

Each of Ryan Gander’s works—installation, photography, sculpture, painting, conferences, video—embodies a new idea while stimulating the imagination and thought of the public.The artist often proceeds by the association of ideas: a sign, image, face, giving rise to new ideas and paying little heed to the hierarchies between ‘high’ and ‘popular’ culture. His theoretical aspirations—Ryan Gander’s work provides material for thought on Art and its functions—intersect with personal and subjective concerns, often punctuated by -autobiographical references. For example, in our window hangs a sculpture, A lamp made by the artist for his wife (Sixteenth attempt) (2013) part of an ongoing series in which Gander began to design and make a lamp for his wife, by recovering and assembling objects and functional elements, bought in a DIY store. Functional and sculptural, the work results from a very direct intention that contrasts with the conceptual nature of his approach. In a sense, the Duchampesque ready-made exudes a sense of jubilance and fun, the associated objects finding a new value, scripted by the artist and the narrative title that he gives to the work. Since then, each new lamp that he creates is numbered as an ‘attempt’, the use of this term involving the idea of an ineluctable ‘failure’; a term that is not exactly accurate, given the pleasure the artist takes in its conception and design.

What we expect from a work of art clashes with the artist’s wish to escape meaning, preferring to remain in an unfathomable world, a troubled duality of being and knowledge. The late Hassan Sharif’s work closes the exhibition with the painting The Flying House No. 35 (2008), insisting on the revealing ambivalence of the works displayed.