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Wander and Travel to…..Hauser & Wirth Art Basel OVR: Rita Ackermann, Phyllida Barlow, Jenny Holzer, and Mika Rottenberg

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(Left) Phyllida Barlow, untitled; Set 5 (fallen boulder); 2020, 2020 © Phyllida Barlow. Photo: Todd-White Art Photography (Right) Rita Ackermann, Mama Study 16, 2020 © Rita Ackermann Photo: Lance Bewer

For Art Basel 2020, Hauser & Wirth will focus on four outstanding artists:Rita Ackermann, Phyllida Barlow, Jenny Holzer, and Mika Rottenberg.The presentation features six works by each artist and the total of 24 works will each be live to view for 24 hours only. The paintings and drawings on view give a unique insight into the work that each artist has created over recent months and the themes which emerge from this period of intense creative focus.   

Six paintings on paper by Rita Ackermann from her recent Mama series reveal her persisting interrogation of line, color and form. Applying oil and china marker to paper, these works are smaller incarnations of her canvases from the series. Here Ackermann focuses on details of her Mama paintings, obscuring various pencil-drawn figures through thick veils of brightly colored oil paint. The works in the presentation coincide with the current exhibition ‘Rita Ackermann. Mama ‘20’ at Hauser & Wirth Zürich. 

Phyllida Barlow’s works on paper are closely related to the set she has created for the Prinzregententheater in Munich, the stage for Mozart’s ‘Idomeneo’, which will premiere next July. The space alludes to the stage, but also, one can imagine, a cityscape and the man’s interaction with the natural world. The period of lockdown gave the artist an opportunity to focus on making works in her home studio. In a text that Barlow has written about her time in isolation, she describes London in lockdown as a ‘theatre waiting for the curtain to rise and the action to be kick started’. 

Also on view are a selection of drawings from Jenny Holzer’s Redaction series, whereby the artist reproduces declassified but heavily redacted US state and military papers. The titles of the documents allude to current political affairs, including ‘Russian Government Efforts’ (2020) based on a document from October 2016 which grants an order and warrant for Carter Page in connection to last presidential election. In the works, Holzer has introduced circular forms blended with bold colours in watercolour and ink, pushing these ready-mades into the realm of abstraction. By bringing government documents released by the Freedom of Information Act into the gallery domain, Holzer ensures they receive another public hearing. 

Mika Rottenberg’s drawings are playful and colourful expressions of this period, whilst also reflective of the chaotic atmosphere of lockdown. Predominately working in video and installation, this time allowed the artist to explore her drawing practice. Rottenberg begins her process with frenetic mark making on the paper, which is developed into a larger ecosystem of symbols and motifs that gradually fill the page. The works are a joyful encounter with the possibilities of drawing.  

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