Failing Grace

Milano, 15/09 – 23/12, 2011

The Jerome Zodo Contemporary Gallery is proud to present Failing Grace, a collective showing four international artists together for the first time: Enrique Marty, Erik Thor Sandberg, Robert Langenegger and Steven Montgomery. The Exhibition opens Thursday 15th September 2011 at 18:00, on the occasion of the VI Edition of STARTMILANO, in the space in Via Lambro 7, Milan.

Failing Grace explores the feeling of “Grace” with regards to a contemporary experience through the art works of the invited artists. Using an anthology of materials and heterogeneous techniques, from oil and watercolour paintings to sculptures in ceramics and polyurethane, each work of art proposes the emergence of a new model with respect to the order of “Grace”.

The expression ‘grace’ derives from the Latin ‘gratia’, which means gratitude, favour and benefit. Over the course of history different meanings have been attributed to this polysemy, often adopted indifferently with regards to God, a beautiful and attractive person or object, or a charitable, private, public or legal act. In Christianity, “Grace” is recognised as the free gift of salvation that God grants to mankind independently of his merits [gratia quia gratis datur]. From an aesthetic point of view, the term is associated with a natural harmony or body movement, able to express an outer, or inner, beauty. Grace plays a fundamental role in Renaissance art and poetry. Vasari and Leonardo Da Vinci translated it with a formula of “je ne sais quoi”, “the, I do not know what”, which transfigures a work of art, an expression of incognito that constitutes the essential element of art.

The Exhibition follows a prospective evidencing the contemporary dynamics and artistic search of these artists, outlining just how much the borders and nuances range far from the classic concepts. Failing Grace presents an anatomy of work posthumous to the condition of Grace, in their own way each artist denounces and reveals the state of crisis in which the feeling of grace tends today, highlighting its transience and the their own deconsecration. Under various forms, techniques and expressions, the works of art exalt the deterrents of this passage: subjects, elements, events or factors that have directed a process of autonomy and independence from a certain aesthetic, ethical and moral, in contemporary man.
In the film Tree of Life (2011) by Terrence Malick, presented at the last Cannes Film Festival and winner of the Palma d’Oro – a direct reference, in fact, is made to the transient and transgressive character of modern man, poised between nature as animal instinct or devoted life. “There are two paths in facing life: the path of nature or the path of grace”. Grace and the negation of grace are the poles of the graph representing the scale of values for the knowledge of human beings and the universe, the antithesis becomes the expression of a certain discomfort and malaise, the epiphany of a behaviour that looks to abandonment for the organising principle of contemporary living.

Created mainly in oils and acrylics, of large and medium dimensions, the paintings of this young Philippine artist, Robert Langennegger (St. Gallen, Switzerland, 1983), who is exhibiting in Italy for the first time, repeat the frequencies of a violated sentiment, which in a more narrative and didactic exercise offer a voice for the dark and transgressive side of human nature. His characters, biblical, political or common mortals, challenge every ethical and social convention in which the negation of any form of grace is clearly evident. With charming irony and psychopathology, Robert Langennegger invents barbaric mythologies in which the idols are turned into beasts, being gutted of all of their contradictions. In his works, we can see the most primitive and brutal character of artistic practice come to life, a memory not only of his own homeland but also confirmation of an art that is able to laugh at the absurdity of mankind.

Enrique Marty, (Salamanca, Spain, 1969), a unique figure in Spanish contemporary art, makes a return to Italy after a period of years since his last participation at the Venice Biennial Exhibition, in 2001 and 2005. The work of art by this Spanish artist journeys through different mediums, mainly painting and sculpture. Enrique Marty is interested in the search for existential meaning and the human being becomes the sole protagonist in his works: his characters seem to trace the famous pages of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, hard and rebellious spirits, lost and grotesque souls, extrapolated from a social setting that is always on the outer edges of “normality”. Choosing a thread that leads him to select episodes and subjects from daily life, the artist collects a series of portraits and images as photographic poses, hostages to his imagination and the media culture. In the sculpture group entitled Children Parents (2009) and A Sleepwalker Noelia (2010), as in his watercolours, the figures take on a deep sense of reality, revealing a sense of anguish in both shapes and manners. The body becomes the means of expressing the refusal of a certain kind of prescribed beauty. Renouncing the charming and the gestures, Enrique Marty faces the dark and sinister side of the human psyche, concluding with embracing and sharing a gauche aesthetic, perhaps betrayed by the effects of life today.

Ceramic, a particularly pliable and malleable clay compound, is the material favoured by the American artist, Steven Montgomery (Detroit, U.S.A., 1954), to use for his works of art. Intent on an imagined post-apocalyptic creation, Steven Montgomery makes imposing and massive sculptures that authentically reproduce elements of the industrial world such as screws, bolts and the keys from the series Test Site (2006) and Red Wrench, proposed here in exclusive for Italy. His work leads the spectator to discover poetry in the ruins, some parts of these works are in an evident state of decomposition, apparently the wear and tear of time become the excuse to widen a reflection on the social and intellectual decadence of our epoch. This practice evidences the passage of the artist’s interest, who from nature as the sole source and form of beauty, passes into the artificial and inhuman world, also declaring his own state of crisis.

For the American painter, Erik Thor Sandeberg (Quantico, VA, U.S.A. 1975), the encounter with aesthetic experience is revealed as a retro-journey in the painting tradition. Reference to the old Flemish School of Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel, is resolved in the choice of allegorical subjects, mainly female, and in the adopting of methodical realism. Through humour and a sense of tragedy, Erik Thor Sandeberg unties the mystery of what is real using symbols that relate to a hidden and transcendent universe. His characters confess a deep psychological shift, poised between vulnerability and suffering, always taken to the limits of provocation. His familiarity with the painting materials leads to the rediscovery of the charm of sweetness, softness, delight, gracefulness and elegance [Vasari] of the poses, typical of classic beauty. However, the injection of foreign or bizarre elements such as the furry earmuffs in the work entitled Concession III (2007) or the spray can and flipflop in Alterations (2010), suggest the inevitable confrontation with contemporary culture, caressing the fine line between attraction and repulsion, sacred and profane.

Robert Langennegger lives and works in Manila, Philippines. He studied Fine Arts at Kalayaan College and is mainly active on the contemporary Asian scene with varied exhibitions between Makati City, Quenzon City Philippines, and Singapore. In 2011, he held his debut in Europe with a personal exhibition in the Zimmermann Gallery in Graz, Austria.

Enrique Marty lives and works in Salamanca, Spain. He is mainly known on the European scene and boasts varied and important exhibitions in international museums and events. His personal exhibitions include: the National Museum and Centre of Contemporary Art REINA SOFIA, in Madrid, Spain; Kunsthalle Mannheim, in Germany; The Gemeentemuseum, in The Hague, Holland; the MUSAC in Leon, Spain; the Artspace Witzenhausen, in Amsterdam; the Museum of Contemporary Art, in QuerŽtaro and the Museum of Contemporary Art, (MAC0) in Oaxaca, Mexico. The collective exhibitions include: the P.S.1 MOMA Contemporary Art Center, in New York, USA; the Ensor and Contemporary Art, SMAK, in Gent, Belgium; Het Valkhof Museum, Holland; the National Museum of Fine Arts, in Buenos Aires, Argentina; ARTIUM, in Vitoria, Spain; GAM, The Gallery of Modern Art, in Turin, Italy; the Freemantle Art Centre, in Perth, Australia.  Enrique Marty is present in important public and private collection: Verdec collection, Belgium; Kunsthalle Mannheim, in Germany; Marugame Hirai Museum of Art, in Japan; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofa, Madrid, in Spain; M.U.S.A.C. (Museo de Arte Contempor‡neo de Castilla y Leon), Leon, in Spain; Museo Patio Herreriano, Valladolid, Spain; Het Valkhof Museum,  Nijmegen, Netherlands.

Steven Montgomery lives and works in New York. His works of art are present in the most important American museums, including: the Metropolitan in New York; the American Museum of Art in Washington; The Museum of Art and Design in New York; the Everson Museum of Art, in Syracuse; the Mint Museum of Art, in Charlotte (NY); the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedelia; the Racine Museum of Art, in Racine. Among the foreign collections:: The Museum of Shigaraky Ceramics Art Center and Cultural Park, Shigaraki, in Japan; the National Museum of History and the Tapei County Yingge Museum, in Tapei, Taiwan; the Icheon World Ceramic Center, in Icheon in South Korea.

Erik Thor Sandberg is present, above all, in the American scene with exhibitions held between New York and Washington, where he lives and works. His work has received particular attention by press in the sector: ARTFORUM celebrates the importance of his personal exhibitions in the Conner Contemporary Gallery in Washington. The artist is present in varied collections: the Rubel Family Collection in Miami; the Bollag-Rothschild Collection, in Switzerland; the Brown Collection, in Holland; the Cohen Collection in Mexico City; the DeWoody Collection in New York; the Barbara and Aaron Levine Collection, the Ognibene Collection and the Podesta Collection, in Washington.