Thursday, February 11, 2010

GaGa for Guido van der Werve - T-dot shows Dutch artist the Love

Guido van der Werve's Toronto show, which opened at Prefix last week, is getting a lotta love (or at least positive attention) with three T-dot reviews published today. Here's an excerpt from mine, published in NOW:

A good nickname for Dutch artist Guido van der Werve might be A Beautiful Mind. Barring that, you could brand him a more cosmic Vito Acconci or a more existential, math-nerdy Buster Keaton.

Whatever moniker sticks, chess, math, classical music, performance, humour and the incomprehensible scale of the cosmos are key themes refracted through van der Werve’s show.

The main work here is a 40-minute film called Nummer Nacht. The first part does a slow pan of a room of chess players. The second shows a man scrambling over beautiful yet desolate landscapes at Mount St. Helens. The third starts with an interior shot, pulling out to survey the San Andreas Fault. One chess game started in the first part continues throughout.

Though the length and slow pace of Nummer Nacht test viewer patience, the film also challenges in enjoyable ways. The classical score, composed by the artist, is romantic and touching. And the data provided – about the number of stars in the universe or number of possible chess games – boggles the mind. If it takes thousands of years to fully explore chess, a relatively intelligible game, how can we ever grasp the complex back-and-forth of the universe?

Also bringing the commentary is David Balzer at Eye Weekly and Bryne McLaughlin at Canadian Art.

Y'know, it's actually kinda exciting to have so many reviews of one show out in the same week—we're still a long ways off of being able to construct a Rotten Tomatoes aggregator for Canadian art shows, but it's a micro-dose that is nice nonetheless.

Also, I think something that can be gleaned from this experience is that—man!—all us art critics really love to locate references in van der Werve's work. To me, he evoked Acconci, to David Balzer he evoked Rodney Graham and Caspar David Friedrich, and to Bryne McLaughlin he evoked Marcel Duchamp and John Cage as well as Friedrich. (In the past, Frieze's Jennifer Higgie also famously posited Friedrich as a reference point.)

Van der Werve is also showing at Luhring Augustine in New York right now... wonder what references they'll find down there?

Image of van der Werve's The Day I Didn't Turn With the World--my fave work in the show--from NOW

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