Hilma af Klint

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Hilma af Klint
Painting the Unseen

Hilma af Klint is now regarded as a pioneer of abstract art. While her paintings were not seen publicly until 1987, her work from the early 20th century pre-dates the first purely abstract paintings by Kandinsky, Mondrian or Malevich. Af Klint sought to express her feelings transmitted to her form nature and the unseen spiritual world.

After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1887, af Klint took a studio in the city where she produced and exhibited traditional landscapes, botanical drawings and portraits. However, by 1886 she had abandoned the conventions she learned at the Academy in favour of painting the invisible worlds hidden within nature, the spiritual realm and the occult.

She privately joined four other female artists to form a group called ‘The Five’. They conducted séances to encounter what they believed to be spirits who wished to communicate via pictures, leading to experiments with automatic writing and drawing, which pre-dated the Surrealists by several decades.

This catalogue focuses primarily on af Klint’s body of work, The Paintings for the Temple (1906-1915), and numerous works from the key series never published before. Consisting of 193 predominately abstract paintings in various series and subgroups, she painted a path towards a harmony between the spiritual and material worlds; good and evil; man and woman; religion and science.

Texts by Daniel Birnbaum, Jennifer Higgie, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Julia Peyton-Jones, Julia Voss

Published on the occasion of the exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London, 3 March – 22 May 2016.

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Life Itself
Edited by Daniel Birnbaum, Stefanie Hessler, Carsten Höller & Jo Widoff

Anyone undertaking a study of the concept of “life” in our culture will observe that it never gets defined as such, writes Giorgio Agamben. Instead, he claims, this indeterminate thing – life itself – gets articulated and divided time and again through a series of oppositions that give it a function in the sciences without ever being defined as such. These theoretical and literary articulations are what this book is about, and what the 173 texts by authors, scientists and philosophers from all times and all disciplines will try to answer.
Ernst Haeckel, speculative biologist and naturalist, coined key concepts as phylum and ecology. In the years 1899-1904 he published Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms of Nature), one hundred prints depicting organisms many of which were first described by Haeckel himself, who with this project took an unusual step from science to art. His sketches thus create a bridge between this book and the exhibition at Moderna Museet, appearing in the margins of both. Otherwise there is no art in this publication and the division of labor strict: the exhibition is art?s chance to answer the topic spelled out in the subtitle to Life Itself: “On the question of what it essentially is; its materialities, its characteristics, considering that attempts to answer this question by occidental sciences and philosophies have proven unsatisfactory.”

Exhibition featured the work of Giovanni Anselmo, Olga Balema, Hicham Berrada, Joseph Beuys, Karl Blossfeldt, Constantin Brancusi, Victor Brauner, Nina Canell, Lygia Clark, Trisha Donnelly, Monica Englund, Valia Fetisov, Dirk Fleischmann, Katharina Fritsch, Ernst Haeckel, Barbara Hauser, Tamara Henderson, Eva Hesse, Damien Hirst, Tehching Hsieh, Pierre Huyghe, Carsten Höller/Rosemarie Trockel, On Kawara, Josh Kline, Hilma af Klint, Edward Krasinski, Mark Leckey, Helen Marten, Henri Michaux, Barnett Newman, Otobong Nkanga, Katja Novitskova, Philippe Parreno, Giuseppe Penone, Leo Reis, Ulf Rollof, Rachel Rose, Anri Sala, Sebastian Stöhrer, Sturtevant, Paul Thek, Rosemarie Trockel, Rosemarie Trockel/Günter Weseler, Christine Ödlund.

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Life Itself
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