The exhibit of Rob Johannesma (born in Amsterdam in 1970, lives and works in Amsterdam) is organized by ar/ge kunst Galerie Museum in cooperation with the Marino Marini Museum in Florence. The artist’s first solo show in Italy will take place contemporaneously in both institutions.
In the last few years, Johannesma has focused on an exploration of the symbolic qualities of photographic reproductions. By means of a sophisticated comparative methodology of interpreting the images he attempts to establish a resonant relationship between the icons of the artistic-historic heritage of Western society and the materials offered by the globalized media universe. The textual codes that have been used to construct the visual imagination in the Western world from the Renaissance until now are the object of his research, which aims to investigate the nature of contemporary photographic images and their form of historic evidence.
The photographic images that Johannesma selects within his research, are images that accompany the international daily press, as a resource of direct information of global events. The artist focuses and preserves these images, which by their nature serve as visual materials of hyper-accelerated consumerism, since they are meant for expiration within the span of a few short hours after their creation. This involves predominantly photo-reportage of wars, images of violence and scenes characterized by strong geopolitical content. Johannesma unites in his installations – in semantic terms – the mechanical reproducibility of images with the idealized construction of history through the visual paradigms of the European tradition of painting, which the artist points out within the matrix of Dutch and Flemish Renaissance culture.
In this exhibit, the artist will show a completely new monumental photography work, World-Wielding (2012) which reflects on the relation between contemporary photography and art history, beginning with the reproduction of a photograph that was published by a Dutch daily newspaper in May 2011. The photographic work depicts the skeleton of a human being lying on the ground in Srebrenica, the site of the mass murder of Bosnian Muslims in 1995, during the course of the Bosnian War. The artist has subjected the image to a process of photographic de-composition and re-composition by taking innumerable photographs of the same image over and over again, in order to transform it into a form of analysis of its possible meanings in relation to chronicle history and art history up to the conceptual potential of photography within the contemporary world.
A large table hosts Newspapers (2012), a collage of photographs, taken from daily journals. Being composed according to a logic of intuitive research by means of assembly, parallel reading and dissonances, the work is an open scenario that examines the iconographic heritage of Western culture. Historical landscapes, reproductions of art works and international news photographs alternate and thus generate a huge variety of references and suggestions that may reveal the complex ambiguity of the medium of photography as a tool appropriate to reproducing reality.
Two video works, Blue and Orange (1998) and Untitled (2002) complete the exhibit. The videos illustrate the artist’s reflections on the very idea of landscape, transmuted in abstract and symbolic codes by means of the relationship between forms, colours and horizons.
The exhibit emphasises how Johannesma opens his artistic research to two parallel horizons, one following a speculative and the other a narrative order. In doing so, he attempts to re-discover lost and heterogeneous visual fragments and unities to a possible unity of signification. In this way, it is possible to compare the research of the Dutch artist with the trail blazed by the phantasmagoric work of Aby Warburg’s figurative Atlas of Mnemosyne, as well for its re-evocation of the relationship between images and meanings that he stages, as for the polyphonic model used by Aby Warburg in the realization of large-scale iconographic tableaux.