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Reading Rämistrasse #142: Marina Ferla on The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation at Bechtler Stiftung - Akademie - Kunsthalle Zürich
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Reading Rämistrasse #142: Marina Ferla on The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation at Bechtler Stiftung

The title of the ongoing show at Bechtler Stiftung The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation serves as a descriptive introduction to what awaits the visitor at the contemporary art museum in Uster. Built upon the notions of difference and similarity, the exhibition presents the works of Wade Guyton (b. 1972), an American artist who investigates modes of image production in the digital era, and British artist Rebecca Warren, whose practices revolves around sculpture. Both artists have previously exhibited in Zürich, but this exhibition marks their first joint showcase.

At first glance, the two bodies of work could not look more different: in Guyton’s works a horizontal perspective prevails, especially tangible in Untitled, 2011, a striped print on canvas nine meters long.

In the front, headline-like image, Warren’s pillars stretch themselves vertically and lead the visitor towards the end of the space to a group of smaller works. The latter shows the broad spectrum of media with which Warren works. The artist’s oeuvre runs the gamut from clay (a raw, natural material) to neon (a ‘cooked’ product of human creation) and spans time through a diverse variety of media. While Guyton’s works, made through the employment of technological manipulation of bi-dimensional images, assume manufactural quality, Warren’s voluminous and tactile pillars, made out of hand-painted clay, seem to result from a series of brushstrokes rather than merely a work on matter. Guyton’s images encourage a meticulous and close–up observation, whereas Warren’s sculptures are to be admired in their entire composition and chromatic rhythm punctuated by the pink and white pedestals.

Installation view Wade Guyton & Rebecca Warren. The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation, Bechtler Stiftung, 2023

Image: Flavio Karrer

As the curator Madeleine Schuppli explains, the title is taken from Claude Lévi Strauss’ book Le Crut et Le Cruit from 1964. In this essay, the French anthropologist detects in the use of pairs of opposites the basic conceptual devices to understand reality. His polarity of raw and cooked permeates all of human culture, with elements falling under one spectrum or the other. An artwork gathers within itself both worlds, as it arises from raw, natural material that gets transformed and takes on new cultural meanings and interpretations over time. Through the dialogue between Warren and Guyton, a thorough dialectic emerges and displays the tools to unravel their practice.

The clash exists also within the artworks themselves. Female silhouettes, pop culture figures and figurative references are thoughtfully incorporated all along Warren’s bronze stelae. The pursuit of figure transforms itself into its opposite and leads to discourses of sculptural abstraction. The inquiry into mechanical production that Guyton studies in his practice is highlighted by the selected works. The prints on canvas and linen are situated at the entrance of the exhibition space, allowing viewers to immediately acquaint themselves with Guyton’s unconventional approach to printing. The latter is especially highlighted in Untitled, 2015, an ink-jet print on linen that depicts a decontextualized and unruly tube of a broken Marcel Breuer chair. The artist moulded the elements of the steel chair its elements both physically and virtually to the point that the object loses its original function to become something completely new and open to new meanings. Although the image is obtained using an Epson UltraChrome bi-dimensional printer, the artist plays with the concepts of time and space through a continuous manipulation of matter that starts with the modernist chair and ends in the space of a post-modern printed framework.

Installation view Wade Guyton & Rebecca Warren. The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation, Bechtler Stiftung, 2023

Image: Flavio Karrer

The exhibition shows how matter and its different forms are central themes in the practices of both artists. What is remarkable in the exhibition is the distinct approaches Warren and Guyton take in addressing the challenge of elevating the unrefined matter to the status of artwork. In this unprecedented dialogue between Guyton and Warren that ranges from the raw to the cooked, the works endlessly confront each other without losing themselves in one another. Guyton’s prints and Warren’s sculptures manage to maintain their autonomy not despite, but because of, this dialectic.

Wade Guyton & Rebecca Warren, The Raw and the Cooked: The Power of Transformation, Bechtler Stiftung, Weiherweg 1, 8610 Uster, 30 September 2023-1 April 2024

Reading Rämistrasse

If art criticism is losing ground, we must act. That’s why we created space for criticism – Reading Rämistrasse – on the Kunsthalle Zürich website and publish reviews of current exhibitions in Zürich. What is published here does not represent the opinion of the Kunsthalle Zürich. Because criticism has to be independent.

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