Monochromes and Other Syllables


Alden Projects™ presents Monochromes and Other Syllables, a selection of advanced art of the 1960s and 1970s exploring seriality and contradiction in, and through the strategic deployment of monochromes including: ArmanMarcel BroodthaersDavid DiaoYves KleinRobert MorrisRobert RauschenbergGerhard Richter, and Jenny Holzer. These diverse artists give color to the pivotal legacy of Klein, who transmitted his monochromatic systems beyond the unitary canvas and beyond the confines of the gallery to occupy work in the reproductive spaces of the publicity apparatus of art. All explore the monochrome as re-duplicative, non-essential, and even linguistic conundrums.

This booth begins with two unspeakably rare blue monochromes created by Yves Klein to announce his first German retrospective, Monochrome und Feuer in Krefeld, January 1961. Like his Timbre bleue (1957-59), these screenprints announce the surprising work of the artist arriving through the very publicity apparatus of art itself, putting fresh and sober frames around his provocative installation in the museum. Nearly all of Klein’s IKB-monochromed invitations were surrendered at the door of the 1961 vernissage (delayed due to a Belgian train strike) or otherwise thrown away.  Still, contemporary audiences must have wondered: what is the difference between the monochromes hanging in the museum and the ones arriving as invitations by post?  

Similarly, Gerhard Richter’s Graue Bilder (1974) consists of grey anti-rust paint on a cardboard box with printed materials cataloguing Richter’s exhibition of grey monochromatic paintings at the Städtisches Museum Mönchengladbach in 1974. This limited edition catalog box accompanied the latter exhibition with an “original grey” painting on its inner lid, constituting Ricther’s contribution. Possible meanings of this purposive act by Richter, perhaps, can be understood through the artist’s elucidation in 1976: “No one painting is meant to be more beautiful than, or even different from, any other. Nor is it meant to be like any other, but the same; the same, though each was painted individual and by itself…”.

No less contradictory is Pense Bête, a ground zero work by Richter’s friend, Marcel Broodthaers, who transformed his final book of poetry into one of his inaugural works of art.  Pense Bête (the book of poetry) was transformed into Pense Bête (the work of art) by pasting geometric shapes cut out of children’s colored paper on top of selected portions of the printed text, some of which remains legible. What is the difference, Broodthaers asks, between the space of poetry and the space of plastic art?  How does the act of reading differ in the plastic arts?

Finally, Jenny Holzer’s self-published Inflammatory Essays (1979-1982) consist programmatically of 100 words in 20 lines, each printed on a different sheet of colored paper. Originally intended to be wheat-pasted onto the walls of the street, contradiction unfolds from the startling, extreme content of the essays, but also in the shifting colors of their printed supports. Reframed here in the space of the Cologne Art Fair, Holzer’s posters may no longer escape the white cube or the commodity system the artist attempted to circumvent, but they do demonstrate, nonetheless, that a monochrome isn’t forever, and that every picture tells a story. 

At Alden Projects™: ART COLOGNE Booth C-006.

© Todd Alden 2014                                         

Alden Projects Booth C-006

Thursday, April 10 - Sunday, April 13

Open to the Public:
Thursday, April 10:  Noon - 8pm
Friday, April 11:      Noon - 8pm
Saturday, April 12:  Noon - 8pm
Sunday, April 13:    Noon - 6pm

Wednesday, April 9: AXA Art Professional Preview and Vernissage (By Invitation)

Koelnmesse GmbH
Messeplatz 1
Hall 11
50679 Cologne