The exhibition will include over 40 works from 1960 – 2016, many of which have not been shown before or since the early 1960’s. The artist’s first monograph “Gene Beery” will be released on occasion of the retrospective.
Fri Art Kunsthalle Fribourg will present the first retrospective of undiscovered American artist Gene Beery (*1937). On view from May 4 - June 30, the exhibition will feature 40 works spanning over 50 years. The majority of the works are on loan from the personal collection of minimalist artist Sol LeWitt, the LeWitt Collection, USA. Accompanying the retrospective is the artist’s very first monograph, “Gene Beery,” offering an in-depth exploration into his life’s work.
Despite his art historical significance and his contribution to reconsiderations of the picture plane, Beery remains largely unknown. The retrospective will allow the fluctuating periods of Beery’s oeuvre to be in dialogue, for the first time in the same space. The works on view range from early anti-art paintings (1960-1963), figurative works (1965-1975), the artist-book series (1976-1985) and the burgeoning contemporary period (1986-2016).
Beery is one of the first artists to use words and texts to form visual artworks, which he coined the “Paintogram.” In 1960, the artist made his first text-paintings that blended deadpan humour and anti-esthetism, as he attempted to reduce the art form to a written idea. In the early 1990s, Beery painted “We Still Have Wild Birds Here,” reflecting his concerns about global warming and the preservation of our natural habitat. Unclassifiable, the text-paintings are at the intersection of Fluxus, Minimalism, Neo-Dada and assemblage.
At the start of his career, Beery worked at the MoMA like many other artists of his generation. Like his peers Sol LeWitt and Lucy Lippard, Beery developed a strong Abstract Expressionist fatigue, and his works held a truly anti-painting stance. During this time in New York, he befriended Max Ernst and James Rosenquist. Three years later Beery left New York to go into exile in the isolated California mountains, where he has worked ever since. His paintings began to invite colour and readapt Pop methods, extending the outreach of his practise and mediations on aesthetic experiences to a new kind of figuration.
Beery’s tongue-in-cheek works mock artistic genius and high art through puns and phrases. Behind the apparent nonchalance and sarcastic distance of his works lie profound reflections. The radical pioneer prompts the question, what does the encounter between the viewer and the artwork promise?