Stefan used to hang with Malcolm McLaren in the early 2000’s and like him, he understands the power of words and their connection to the power structures of control.
Like McLaren, Brüggemann wants to share his ideas and his art with people beyond the art crowd and he uses objects and techniques that non-specialist audiences/ people will feel comfortable with. In recent exhibition, NOT BLACK, NOT WHITE, SILVER, that means working in formats the public will want to engage with; mirrors, graffiti, posters and an Iggy Pop narration. And it means outreach that takes place in locations outside the traditional urban homes of high culture.
In a second engagement with a seaside town NOT BLACK, NOT WHITE, SILVER appears at the beautiful, but off-the-beaten-track gallery Mostyn in Llandudno a historic seaside resort town in the heart of Wales. An earlier project, his public artwork ‘Untitled Action’, completed with HOP Projects was installed in another British seaside town, Folkestone, on England’s southeast coast in 2020.
Upon entry into the first gallery, the central hanging artwork from 2019, Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies (Guernica), commands attention. Of 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 spraypainted 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 21 st century and the subsequent breakdown of meaning depicted in the aesthetic of street protest also figure into works on canvas and marble 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 last 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 central 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.
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, to 17th June 2023, Mostyn
Curated by 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.
About the artist
Born in Mexico City and working between Mexico, London and Ibiza, Stefan Brüggemann’s oeuvre is characterized by an ironic conflation of Conceptualism and Minimalism. In this way, Brüggemann’s practice sits outside the canon of the conceptual artists practicing 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. 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.