“Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels”
Some Walls is pleased to present Brussels-based British artist Frederick Bell’s first U.S. solo exhibition, “Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels,” from January 23 – March 10, 2014.Frederick Bell’s “Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels” is a single work consisting of thirteen inkjet prints, one drawing, and two paintings pinned directly to the wall in four rows and four columns. The cities in the title refer to four locations from which images for this work originated: the Morandi Museum in Bologna; the exhibition space Ruimte Morguen, in Antwerp, where Bell has regularly exhibited, most recently in spring 2008 and fall 2009; an installation of three inkjet prints of installation views of the 2008 Ruimte Morguen exhibition installed in a home in Oakland; and Bell’s studio and home in Brussels.“Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels” is an intimate, thoughtfully composed group of images that provoke consideration of: time and place; the act of looking, thinking, and reflection; uses of memory and documentation; the balance of logic and intuition; and linear and non-linear narratives and iteration.Images, an essay, and biography are at somewalls.com.Frederick Bell’s “Looking at looking (a retrospective),” took place in fall 2009 at the cultuurcentrum Hasselt, Belgium; a PDF of the catalog can be downloaded. Installation photos of the recent exhibition, “Looking at Looking (new work),” at Ruimte Morguen, Antwerp are at Bell’s blog.Some Walls is a curatorial and writing art project in a private home in Oakland, California. Some Walls is open by appointment only. To view the exhibition online please visit somewalls.com. To schedule a visit, or for more information, please contact Chris Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Section I of Pensées, “Thoughts on Mind and on Style,” Pascal ponders the difference and integration of the mathematical and the intuitive mind, and writes that “True eloquence makes light of eloquence… to make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher.” One might extend this to the idea that to be a true artist is to make art that makes light of, or reveals, characteristics of Art’s foundational basis, including personal aspects such as sight, reason, and feeling, institutional aspects such social relations, value, and politics, as well as an artwork’s material and aesthetic aspects. A conceptual work such as Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs,” 1965, may have shed light on Art’s purpose, while also, unfortunately, to this writer’s mind, shedding personal, material, and aesthetic aspects, ultimately becoming merely a kind of visual text providing a minimal art experience.For eloquence and philosophy, consider a recent work by Brussels-based British artist Frederick Bell. His “Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels” is a single sixteen-part work consisting of thirteen inkjet prints, one drawing, and two paintings pinned directly to the wall in four rows and four columns. The cities in the title refer to four locations from which images for this work originated: the Morandi Museum in Bologna; the exhibition space Ruimte Morguen, in Antwerp, where Bell has regularly exhibited, most recently in spring 2008 and fall 2009; an installation of three inkjet prints of installation views of the 2008 Ruimte Morguen exhibition installed at Some Walls in Oakland in summer 2008; and Bell’s studio and home in Brussels.“Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels” is an intimate, materially humble, thoughtfully composed group of images that provoke consideration of: time and place; uses of memory and documentation; the balance of logic and intuition; and linear and non-linear narratives and iteration. In this piece Bell continues his exploration of the experiential and cognitive act of looking at, seeing, and thinking about art, the artist’s and viewer’s roles in that act, the influence of art institutions as scholarly, solitary, and social places that frame this act, and how this multi-leveled and layered experience provokes and sustains sensation, memory, cross-references, the impulse to understand, and the need to create. Bell’s work involves observation, order, and logic, but is also intuitive and emotional: philosophical inquiry complemented by poignancy and eloquence.For all of its order, it can be confusing to outline or describe the relationships between the pieces which comprise this work, although it is much easier to grasp this when viewing the images as they hang together. The genesis of “Return Trip” is a photo of a salon-style hanging of Morandi’s paintings shot during a visit to the Bologna museum. The subsequent pieces comprising “Return Trip” have spun out over time from this initial image. For example, a neighboring photo shows the view of a group of paintings by Bell, similar in size and tone to Morandi’s paintings and hanging in the same salon configuration, installed at Ruimte Morguen in Antwerp. Another photo shows the same Antwerp hanging from the point of view of the viewer, and another is of Bell’s painting of this same group of paintings hanging in his studio. Photos, drawings, and paintings from this group were incorporated into Morandi Sequence, shown at Ruimte Morguen on the same wall in spring 2008 as the previous paintings after Morandi. Documentary photos of Morandi Sequence were emailed as JPEGS, printed and hung at Some Walls in summer 2008, and photographed and sent back to Bell. To further interconnect images and places Bell made drawings and paintings from the Oakland installation of his Antwerp photos, and used a photo and made a painting from this photo of the previous Some Walls exhibition, work by A. Bill Miller, which hung on the same wall on which Bell’s “Return Trip” hangs during this exhibition.Similar to other works by Bell, “Return Trip” employs and repeats a number of images and ideas which, because his method and attitude is porous, absorbs new material over time as his art circulates. This work includes: a set of motifs of personal significance; the same walls in Bologna, Antwerp, Oakland, and Brussels used repeatedly; cycling from original to copy and back to original (the actual artwork, the view of the artwork, the documentation of the artwork, the copy of the artwork, any of which can become another artwork); references to, place, chronology, and distance; and the notion of how context affects what we see, and how objects affect context.Bell’s work is about how looking, thinking, and remembering can be connected and holistic acts. As viewers we observe and hypothesize about the artist’s narrative and process, about how what he sees is extrapolated from or connected to another image, a specific place, a similar idea or context. “Return Trip” takes us from one location to another over time; we know we are seeing an artist’s work, but also his life. We enter into those places and shifting times. As we observe this, we also begin to observe ourselves, and think about how we connect and inter-relate images and contexts in our own lives. Bell’s “Return Trip: Bologna Antwerp Oakland Brussels” heightens our own awareness of what we see, what we notice, where meaning lies, and how we think about it, making light of both art and life.
Chris Ashley Oakland, CA January 2010