Mostyn open 2023 with the first UK institutional solo exhibition by Mexican-German artist Stefan Brüggemann (b. 1975, Mexico City). Defying categorisation in the methodology of his art, its message as well as his own artistic and cultural identity NOT presents the grey area in between seen across the artist’s work from the last 20 years. Brüggemann’s approach to art-making often explores the provocative and ironic, reflecting on the paradoxes of contemporary society using language and carefully chosen materials.
Born in Mexico City and working between Mexico, London and Ibiza, Stefan Brüggemann’s oeuvre is characterised by an ironic conflation of Conceptualism and Minimalism. In this way, Brüggemann’s practice sits outside the canon of the conceptual artists practising in the 1960s and 1970s, who sought dematerialisation and rejected the commercialisation of art. Instead, his aesthetic is refined and luxurious, whilst maintaining a punk attitude. Spanning—and sometimes combining—sculpture, video, painting, and drawing, Brüggemann’s work deploys text in conceptual installations rich with acerbic social critique and a post-pop aesthetic.
Upon entry into the middle gallery at Mostyn, the central hanging artwork from 2019, Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies (Guernica), commands attention. On the scale of Picasso’s wartime masterpiece Guernica, Brüggemann’s reflective piece (from a series ongoing since 2010) overlays contemporary headlines with final lines from historically important dramatic films to create a cacophonous surface, here spray painted in red, white and blue. At once billboard, at once mirror, the work occupies the space between high culture and everyday, between collectivity and individuality. The overload of information in the 21st century and the subsequent breakdown of meaning depicted in the aesthetic of street protest also figure into 15/JAN/2021 Washington D.C. on alert (2021) – made during the days following the attack on Capitol Hill using frenetic spray-painted text on gold-leaf-laid canvases – as well as works from the ERODED PAINTING series (2022), recording headlines around climate change on top of the artist’s own text reflecting on eroding landscape both physical and mental.
With superimposed texts and spray paint rendered in black, the plywood wall Hyper-Palimpsest (2019) in the next gallery further challenges legibility and interpretation. Creating a monochromatic palimpsest, texts by the artist in removed vinyl lettering are obscured with black spray-painted Headlines and Last Lines, further complicated with an audio recording of Iggy Pop reading the artist’s entire catalogue of text statements. In the same room with a more sparing gesture that equally tests the viewer, the neon works I can’t explain and I won’t even try (2003) as well as This work is realised when it is destroyed (2014), both confront the idea of meaning and art with a marked absence.
In the final room, a site-specific series of 10 fly-posted works on paper, hi-speed contrast (2018), bring aesthetics of the street into the gallery. Playing with the scale and reproduction of digitization, Brüggemann’s work combines the speed and plasticity of the digital with the intervention of gesture, blurring the line between human agency and digital erasure.
Like the Guernica-scaled work in the central room where Brüggemann plays with reassessment of 20th century art in a contemporary framework, Trash Mirror Boxes (after MV) (2016) explicitly references the seminal Trash (1991) edition by Venezuelan conceptual artist Meyer Vaisman. Made into reflective mirror boxes, Brüggemann reverses inner and outer – the unreachable content of the “boxes” is denoted on the outside in a cursory note in the artist’s hand and multiplied into a grid layout; the installation becomes a reflective unattainable pool for the viewer to consider. Facing hi-speed contrast, Brüggemann’s Untitled (Joke and Definition Paintings) (2011) comes from a series which questions high and low art. He appropriates Joseph Kosuth’s series Art as Ideas (1966) and Richard Prince Joke Paintings (1985) – themselves appropriations of language – and combines the sober dictionary definitions with arcane jokes in a single canvas. Brüggemann removes his own hand with conceptual restraint in order to create a layered space of doubt between the two texts.
In creating spaces of doubt connected to contemporary life, Brüggemann invites the viewer into his work. While layering of texts challenge legibility, it also allows for multiple possibility.
Stefan Brüggemann – NOT BLACK, NOT WHITE, SILVER, 18th March to 14th May 2023, MOSTYN
Texts about Brüggemann’s work have been written by Glenn O’Brien, Chris Kraus, Malcolm McClaren, and Mathieu Copeland. His work has been shown at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela; Museo Jumex, Mexico City; Collection Yvon Lambert, Avignon; and Bass Museum, Miami, and works by the artist can be found in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, FRAC Bourgogne, Kunstmuseum Bern, Museo Tamayo, and Taguchi Art Collection.
Mostyn is a free, public gallery in Llandudno, Wales, that presents a programme of outstanding international contemporary art within its galleries and online. This programme has recently included solo exhibitions by Cerith Wyn-Evans, Jacqueline de Jong, Nick Hornby, Chiara Camoni, Anj Smith, Nobuko Tsuchiya, Derek Boshier, Louisa Gagliardi and Shezad Dawood. Mostyn offers a public engagement programme including talks, tours and workshops, and supports over 400 artists through their onsite and online shop. Mostyn’s Director Dr Alfredo Cramerotti is also Co-Director of IAM Infinity Art Museum, Co-Founder of xxnft publishing platform and President of IKT–International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art amongst other international positions. Mostyn receives support from the Arts Council of Wales and is part of Plus TATE, the UK-wide contemporary visual art network. soundcloud.com/mostyngallery
Stefan Brüggemann interview by Olivier Zahm & Jérôme Sans: PURPLE Magazine