“Brick building, large windows with excellent views, partially furnished, renowned architect.” All that is missing from this small ad is the price or rent and of course a box number. The author is obviously making a joke, as what is offered here: is an outstanding piece of Mod-ern European architecture namely Haus Lange in Krefeld. The “renowned architect” is of course no less than Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who designed the house in the late 1920s, along with the neighbouring Haus Esters. The fact that the son of the man who commis-sioned the building put the property at the disposal of the city of Krefeld as early as 1955 to house contemporary art exhibitions admittedly only makes this offer more highly charged. Even the title of John Baldessari's Krefeld exhibition gives us a successful taste of his ironic and ambiguous humour. Adam and Eve (With Ear and Nose)
But light-hearted interventions of this kind are not entirely unexpected from John Baldessari, the son of a European immigrant family born in National City, California in 1931, and who now lives in Santa Monica. On the contrary, it is one of Baldessari's great achievements to have developed conceptual art from its early days in the first half of the 1960s from an ironic and entirely witty distance, and to have linked it with enormous intellectual, pictorial or linguistic precision. One recurring theme in Baldessari's work arises from the question of what happens if clearly separate, different realities, images or words collide. His study of the relationship between word and image represents a key starting point here, from the 1960s onwards. Baldessari's artistic subversion forges ahead in the form of omission, wiping out, overlapping and collisions. He withdraws their original meaning from motifs by overpainting them with significant colours at critical points, while at the same time revealing hidden contexts. On several occasions in the last few years, Baldessari has taken to installing works in specific locations in such a way that they relate to the actual space. This has included the installation Adam and Eve (With Ear and Nose) plus Serpent at the Portikus, Frankfurt, and the installation at the Bonner Kunstverein (both 2007) on the occasion of his double exhibition Music in Bonn.
Baldessari structured his Krefeld exhibition essentially as a work relating to the location or the architecture. The artist calls his concept for Haus Lange “contra-Mies”. Point of departure for him was the physical structure of the brick building. On the one hand he has focused on what for Mies was the source of a confrontation with his client: Mies vainly attempted to increase the extent of the building's outside glazing in order to increase the desired permeability between inside and out. However, the artist has used the former Bauhaus master's own idea quite pointedly against him: he has completely obscured the windows with pictures of bricks. At the same time though, he has intriguingly restored the connection between inside and outside by likewise covering the interior walls with brick wallpaper - in an extension of Mies's ideas that takes them to their logical and absurd extreme! To top it all, the artist has placed photographs of Californian land- and seascapes on the inside of the windows: as simulacra of the Miesian view through the window, these scenes bring about a complete dislocation of the building inside while at the same time simulating a link between the Lower Rhine and the artist's home in California. Anti-Miesian furnishings in the form of an Ear-Couch, decorated with two vases shaped like noses (Nose Sconces), are complemented on the outside by a winking win-dow eye: ironic apercus that are further crowning points of this intervention.
Baldessari's room installation comes from a long tradition of architectural interventions in Museum Haus Lange, going back to the late 1960s. Artists including Christo, Daniel Buren, Michael Asher, Claes Oldenburg, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Shiro Matsui, Kiki Smith and many others accepted the challenge of entering into a dialogue with this special place for art, architecture and history.
During the exhibition period, a monographic catalogue will appear featuring comprehen-sive documentation of the intervention.