Opening: Friday, September 22, 2023
In her solo exhibition Drawing something under itself, Fiona Connor (b. 1981 in Auckland, New Zealand, lives and works in Los Angeles, USA) explores the materiality and symbolism of repetition and divergence. While the tension between reiteration and variation lies at the heart of her work, it is also fundamental to every pedagogical situation: processes, methods, and practices are studied, learned, and repeatedly rehearsed, and yet every subsequent application creates a new variant – never identical and always different, finding its own forms, paths, and perspectives.
Connor’s sculptural practice has been based on the detailed reproduction of found, discarded objects and objects still in use, as well as architectural fragments, with her attention repeatedly drawn toward the faithful replication of patina, wear and tear. Her works are underpinned by a deep sense of empathy that, ultimately, is less interested in technical perfection than in the process of physically reenacting and comprehending the material actions, labor, and social and material histories invested within an object. This is led by a process of learning and precise material study – a sort of reverse engineering in which the artist deconstructs an object, breaking it down to its individual materials and components. Connor’s practice, in that sense, is intrinsically engaged with questions of learning. This always involves collaborating with others— builders, foundry workers, studio assistants — and emphasizes processes of material and contextual translation as an essential part of her work.
For Drawing something under itself, Connor configures a number of displays that play on different forms of education and practice, as well as on the idea of embodied viewership: Five demonstrations of traditional brickwork stand among loose and repeated constellations of stackable chairs, drawn from the Kunstverein/Kunsthalle building’s historic collection, with the chairs providing both a support for the artist to make a series of observational drawings, and a support for the drawing board on which the drawings rest. Practices of construction and drawing encounter one another, revealing different perspectives on labor, skill, and artistry, but also questioning the distinction between (artistic) replication and the execution of a single exercise aimed at teaching a manual skill, as Connor works together with local masonry apprentices to build the walls. Finally, Connor directs our gaze to the subtle shifts and changes in perspective in her drawings, which show different angles and viewpoints onto the exhibition space and the objects within it. These drawings accumulate during the duration of the show as Connor continually produces new ones, thereby alluding to the idea of an exhibition under construction. The drawings of the chairs are produced while sitting on the chairs, enacting the paradox described in the title of the show.
Drawing something under itself further attends to the idea of support structures – objects that normally remain secondary and overlooked, behind or underneath the things they are supposed to sustain, hold, and carry. Among other works, Connor presents an accumulated collection of the Kunstverein’s entire inventory of plinths, bringing in the hidden storage facility, but also allowing their different shades of white, their marks and signs of wear, to appear as objects of viewing – and, perhaps, as replications of her own.
Lastly, the exhibition draws upon the artist’s own family archive. Her father, Bruce Connor, visited apprenticeship schools and construction sites in North Rhine-Westphalia in the 1950s as a foreman on a Cubitt Travel Prize, in order to study the new organizational and structural processes used here during postwar reconstruction. The exhibition at the Kunstverein picks up, returns to, and expands this personal archive.
Drawing something under itself is Fiona Connor’s first institutional solo show in Germany. During the duration of the exhibition, visitors and students will be invited to participate in various spontaneous events and educational workshops in the foyer, where Connor has also installed a print workshop that is free to use for all visitors, including a newly created typeface by the artist that distills found characters from the archive and immediate surroundings of the Kunstverein.
Curated by Kathrin Bentele
The exhibition is generously supported by Kunststiftung NRW, Creative New Zealand, Bauindustrie Nordrhein-Westfalen (Construction Industry in North-Rhine Westphalia), Michael Schmidt GmbH & Co. KG, and Lampolet. The Kunstverein is supported by a permanent partnership of Stadtwerke Düsseldorf, by the Landeshauptstadt Düsseldorf and de Haen-Carstanjen & Söhne.
Bruce Connor, Travel Report of a Fourteen Day Visit To Germany and Holland, 1956. Photo featuring Ausbildungszentrum Essen, Berufsförderungswerk der Bauindustrie NRW gGmbH. Courtesy of Connor family.