For the Armory Show 2019, Vigo presents the work of Bram Bogart, Daniel Crews-Chubb and Ibrahim El-Salahi.
Two exquisite Bram Bogarts; Le Grand Blanc, 1962 and De Sombre Grijzen, 1964 are amongst the best we have seen from his most sought after early sixties paintings. We will also show three works from Ibrahim El-Salahi’s long awaited Pain Relief series. Also presented will be a large Meditation Tree sculpture for the first time in the US, following on from his installation at Somerset House. Finally, we will exhibit three brilliant new paintings by Daniel Crews-Chubb.
The Pain Relief Series: Ibrahim El-Salahi
When Ibrahim El Salahi is drawing he gets lost in his work and has temporary respite from his chronic back pain. At 88 the ‘Godfather of African Modernism’ says it’s the only time he does not feel pain. For the last two years, he has created an extraordinary body of work from the comfort of an armchair, refusing to let physical restriction limit his art, making around 180 tiny but incredible drawings in pen and ink on the back of medicine packets and envelopes after consuming their contents.
These are drawings in their own right but they are more than that as they are also seeds for a very ambitious project. He wants to make larger scale work that is physically comfortable for him and so achieves this by using these drawings as a source or nucleus from which to create large unique mono-prints transferred by a screen from the original drawings. The image is squeegeed onto strong woven linen canvas many times over until a thick inky texture is achieved, amplifying the simplicity of line and character of the marks. The normal role of the screen-print as a democratic printing technique for multiples and editions is turned on its head, becoming the enabler of large-scale paintings.
These drawings and their realisation as large-scale works on canvas are a way of capturing his ideas in a format that can communicate to a public. He is limited by his physical constraints so this approach allowed him to do something that otherwise would not be possible. A small selection of the pain relief drawings were shown in his recent solo show at the Ashmolean Museum. The aim now is for these works to travel and be seen by many people.
This approach of playing with scale and ways of engaging the viewer is not without precedent for El-Salahi. Throughout his career, he has returned again and again to the nucleus versus the whole and the organic opening up of an image. When he was in prison in the seventies he drew on small scraps of cement casings, which he would join together whilst the guards were not watching to create a whole. Thereafter all his black and white works were expansive in nature whether starting with the nucleus and adding pieces of paper, letting the work grow organically, or by series within notebooks. The Guggenheim just purchased a notebook of 83 drawings completed in the run-up to his solo retrospective at Tate Modern in 2013. His prison diary was purchased last year by MOMA and has just been co-published in Arabic and English editions with the Sharjah Art Foundation.
As far back as the fifties, Ibrahim was always thinking how to engage people’s attention. Hence his first forays into what became known as the School of Khartoum. He was disappointed at the lack of attention from his fellow countrymen and women when he showed his Slade work at the Grand Hotel in Khartoum in the late 1950s and noted that if he wrote something in Arabic calligraphy on the drawings it attracted interest and people paused to look and read. The words and letters slowly then evolved as he began an exploration of the pictorial qualities and hidden shapes within calligraphic forms. It was a practical means to an end, a way into the work and a communication. Now he is limited because of physical restraint but that has not stopped him from creating and communicating his ideas.
Born in Sudan in 1930, Ibrahim El-Salahi is one of the most important living African artists and a key figure in the development of African Modernism. El-Salahi grew up in Omdurman, Sudan and studied at the Slade School in London. On his return to Sudan in 1957, he established a new visual vocabulary, which arose from his own pioneering integration of Sudanese, Islamic, African, Arab and Western artistic traditions. In 2013 Ibrahim El-Salahi became the first African artist to be given a full retrospective at Tate Modern. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC; The British Museum, London; Tate Modern, London; The Guggenheim Museum, Abu Dhabi; Sharjah Art Foundation, UAE; The National Gallery, Berlin, and many others.
At the Armory, we present three large scale Mono-print paintings, the first to be released for sale.
Zeus Paintings: Daniel Crews- Chubb
Daniel Crews-Chubb’s paintings combine powerful visual archetypes, familiar throughout human history; Gods, mythical characters, nudes, beasts, trees and chariots. These characters are rendered in mixed media works that typically incorporate drawing, collage and painting. They embody a search for the authentic, the raw and the unrefined, and are subtly influenced by consumer culture, modernism, antiquity, ethnographic sculpture and the history of mark-making, from cave painting to expressionism.
His repetition of figurative motives becomes a vehicle for exploring the act of painting itself, utilising a repertoire of seemingly casual marks that are, in fact, worked and reworked to create hard-won, layered paintings. He uses oils, acrylics, spray paint, sand, charcoal and pastel with abandon on rough, stretched and re-stretched canvases, which he often scrapes back and over-paints many times. Corrections are brutal, collaging further canvas and assorted material on top of past imagery to edit and proceed quickly, retaining spontaneity in the development of his ideas. His characters are introduced and reintroduced into the paintings, one feeding the next. Ancient gods and goddesses mix with Yetis, and Belfie girls from Instagram -abstracted yet realist, false yet real. Crews-Chubb’s employed methodology involves using his canvas structure like an ever-evolving collage both conceptually and physically, the architecture of which if dissected would reveal numerous iterations, thoughts and actions that led to the final state of rest. If the artist dislikes or wants to change something it is covered with scraps of canvas, linen, or whatever material is to hand, allowing him to adjust and proceed quickly. Thus, he is capable of making paintings that feel at once the product of their own layering and time-worn history whilst remaining truly dynamic and gestural. So, whilst these works are ‘new’, they are also laced with both the history of their making and a patinated record of progress and recession. In this way, Crews-Chubb gives us something we crave - the new fresh and organic with a sense of time, history, patina and physical progress. This is combined with his ability to trigger displaced memory through reference to historical figurative parallels an abstracted homage to his inspiration both in terms of art and artefact. In these new works presented at The Armory Show, Crews-Chubb has two new characters, which have entered the fray; Zeus(!) and Mios.
The Zeus (!) paintings take as the starting point the god of gods but have merged with past imagery of Hercules and Michelangelo’s David. The (!) in the titling is a way for the artist to tell us that while there are definite characters that emerge their final rendering is as painting not as story. The stories or myths are there as an entry point for both the creation and reception of the painting. Zeus! Is actually an Italian prog rock band that Daniel has only experienced thus far on google image searches but just knowing that they exist perhaps lent the musicality to these works, Zeus becoming almost bard like a dandy warrior capable of taking on giants, with the strength of Hercules.
Mios (Maahes) the Egyptian god of war was said to have had a lion’s head and his incorporation into Crews-Chubb’s lexicon is the amalgamation of previous themes, more specifically his Chariot paintings and Lion series. It also refers back to his childhood memories of playing with action figures, here in particular one called King from a beat em up video game called Tekken– a muscle man character with a lion head riffing off mythology but firmly rooted in nineties gaming culture. However, as usual, the original title/ theme becomes secondary to the painting both figurative and abstract.
Daniel Crews-Chubb was born in 1984 in Northampton and lives and works in London. He completed the Painters Studio Programme at Turps Art School in 2013, having previously received his BA from Chelsea College of Arts in 2009. His work is in public and private international institutions and collections including Denver Art Museum, The Bunker Art Space in West Palm Beach, The Saatchi Gallery and the Hall Foundation in New York. He has had notable exhibitions with Vigo Gallery, Saatchi Gallery, Roberts Projects and Galerist and residencies in Bali, LA, Denver and Istanbul.
Bram Bogart, 1921–2012, was dedicated to exploring the materiality of paint. Like Burri and Fontana, he challenged and blurred traditional notions of painting and sculpture, building three-dimensional paintings comprised of mostly natural ingredients including various oils, glue, pigment, powdered chalk, and water. This investigation into the sculptural possibilities of paint led him to use increasingly thick layers, to create nuanced textural surface, exploring balance and disorder, tension and calm, two- and three-dimensionality, colour and structure. Bogart refused to be pigeonholed into any school or grouping yet he was an artists’ artist, exchanging works with his contemporaries Schoonhoven and Fontana. Where Fontana broke the plane by slashing and gauging, Bogart, more than any other pushed outwards towards the viewer, using paint as a sculptural medium. As a young man his heroes were Rembrandt, Permeke and Van Gogh, and later on, inspiration came from Mondrian and Van Der Leck. This lineage of lowland painters is very much evident in Bogart’s work.
From mid-1961 on, Bogart starts to paint on the floor and the works begin to look like his hero and fellow countryman Van Gogh’s brush strokes but enlarged a thousandfold. This golden period lasts until about 1965 producing some of his most outstanding contributions to the history of painting. When first confronted with a Bogart, the effect is immediate. In 1965 Fontana wrote ‘For many years now I’ve met the painter Bogart in Paris, and yet I can not forget the impression that I had when watching his paintings the first time when I saw them in his studio’. These paintings sometimes feel like they were created by an aesthetically astute giant with a suitably large range of utensils for flattening, extruding and brushing cake icing. New observers seem to search for comparisons like this, trying to make sense of the voluminous matter, the like of which they may not have encountered. For the most part, Bogart’s are made of solid homemade paint, the colour within and on the surface, referred to by Wim Beeren, Director of Museum Boijmans as a ‘concretion of colour’, a sort of structural polychromy, rendering the painting not merely abstract colour/s but abstract coloured structure.
To understand the progression of Bogart’s paintings one can think of them in terms of a linear, logical almost inevitable progression of the exploration of his medium. Belgium’s representative at the 1971 Venice Biennale and the subject of dozens of museum shows internationally, Bogart’s work can be found in many major collections. Following the acquisition of four works in 2014 by Tate Modern, the public is slowly starting to become aware of this important Dutch artist. He is an important historical figure in the canon of abstract painting who stuck throughout to his vision, exploring the sculptural possibilities, tension and intrigue of paint.
Bogart first worked towards an all-white picture in a series of semi-representational paintings in the South of France in the late 1940s. These works were a response to the light and dust of the Mediterranean, and also the chalkiness of local buildings. Originally trained as a house-painter, Bogart approximated the walls’ rough matte finish by mixing poster paint to his oils and letting the paint peel off to suggest exposure to the elements. Beginning in the late 1950s and expanding in the opening years of the 1960s, Bogart developed a new resolution of gesture and material. He met Willem de Kooning, and his paintings acknowledged the all-over structure and expansive scale associated with American Abstract Expressionism. Like Jackson Pollock, after 1960, Bogart painted on the floor, using a mix of mortar, siccative, powdered chalk, varnish, and raw pigment applied to heavy wooden supports to ‘build’ his works. When viewed upright, Bogart’s slab-like pictures hold themselves together in a way that actively denies gravity.
Le Grand Blanc, 1962 must be one of the best monochrome paintings from one of the best years. His white paintings are particularly sought after overall periods but none more so than the early sixties. The title belies its significance. De Sombre Grijzen, 1964 is another example of Bogart at his best.
Bogart has exhibited widely across Europe from the 1940s onwards, at private galleries and museums. His first solo exhibition in the UK was held at Gimpel Fils Gallery, London, in 1958. Further solo exhibitions include: Musée Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands (1959 and 1984); Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium (1964 and 1973); Stedelijk Museum, Netherlands (1967); Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany (1972); Fondation Veranneman, Kruishoutem, Belgium (1985); PMMK Museum of Contemporary Art, Ostend, Belgium (touring) (1995); Fine Art Society, London (2006); Bernard Jacobsen, London (2007 and 2009); and Cobra Museum, Netherlands (2012). His works feature in the collections of many important private collections and museums, including Tate Modern, London, which acquired four works through Vigo Gallery in 2015.