Antonis Pittas (1973, Athens) has long been researching the visual language and legacy of modernism and its promise for a better, more egalitarian and democratic world for all. However, the urge for total renewal also contributed to total destruction. In 2019 Pittas was an artist in residence at the Van Doesburg House, the former home and studio of Theo van Doesburg, just outside of Paris. His residency coincided with the widespread yellow vest protests in France. Although the demonstrations seemed visually united by the yellow vests, the protestors’ motivations for change were extremely diverse. Pittas moved from the urgency of the protests outside on the streets to the historical context and the private sphere of the Van Doesburg House. It brought him to investigate the legacy of modernism through a political lense, culminating into a solo exhibition at Centraal Museum and an autonomous publication, published by Jap Sam Books.
Both the exhibition and the publication are characterized by reflective yellow foil, which is a material generally used for traffic barriers and road signs. It evokes associations with danger, visibility, warning, protection, safety, and control. The title jaune, geel, gelb, yellow is borrowed from Van Doesburg’s Dadaist magazine Mécano of which four issues were published between 1922 and 1923. Each issue was named after one of the primary colors, written in the four different languages in which the magazine was published. The exhibition and the publication examine the failure, collapse and historization of the modernist ideals espoused by Theo van Doesburg, set against the current political backdrop of mass protest.
Exhibition: jaune, geel, gelb, yellow. Acts of Modernism with Antonis Pittas and Theo van Doesburg
This exhibition is part of a new programme in which Centraal Museum invites contemporary artists to reflect upon the museum’s collection. The museum has an important collection of works on paper by Theo van Doesburg, who was born and raised in Utrecht. As the driving force behind De Stijl, he became an influential artist in modern European art history. Pittas has selected drawings and gouaches by Van Doesburg’s which he juxtaposes with large scale aluminium cut-outs of silhouettes. Pittas captured the demonstrations of the yellow vests by photographing the protesters, the police and their interactions on the streets. They return as silhouettes in this intervention, sometimes as distinct individuals, sometimes merging into a mass of bodies. Placed in front of Van Doesburg’s drawings, they seem to both block and protect his work, his legacy. The visitors of the exhibition are encouraged to photograph the work with the use of flash, activating the installation.
Publication: jaune, geel, gelb, yellow. Monochrome. Antonis Pittas
The publication brings together writers from a variety of fields who reflect on the legacy and failures of modernism from the perspective of their individual backgrounds and expertise. Brought together, it shows the interconnectivity of a network of discourse, across time periods.
The book is published by Jap Sam Books, is a concept by Antonis Pittas, edited by Lisa Bakker and Eleonoor Jap Sam. With contributions by Maria Barnas (poet), I.K. Bonset (poet), Laurie Cluitmans (curator Centraal Museum), Johan F. Hartle (philosopher), Dirk van den Heuvel (architecture historian), Bram Ieven (philosopher), Bruno Latour (sociologist), Thalia Ostendorf (social anthropologist), Bart Rutten (artistic director Centraal Museum), and Doris Witgens (curator). The book is designed by Alex Farrar, and printed by die Keure (Belgium).
jaune, geel, gelb, yellow. Monochrome. Antonis Pittas
English/Dutch/French, Softcover, 10 x 20 cm, 769 pp., numerous illustrations, ISBN 978-94-92852-44-1, Jap Sam Books, Release date: December 2021
The exhibition is supported by the Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and Herante BV and Sign & Safety.
The publication is supported by the Mondriaan Fund, Creative Industries Fund NL, Jaap Harten Fonds, Centraal Museum and Reflexfolie.
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