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Karla Zerressen’s late grandmother, Marianne Langen, founded the Langen Foundation in Neuss, Germany, to share her rare Japanese art collection with the world. With the help of the Pritzker Prize–winning architect Tadao Ando, she created the perfect space to represent the collection, full of Japanese art dating from the 12th to the 20th century. Today, under the direction of Zerressen, the foundation also exhibits contemporary shows by artists like Olafur Eliasson, Alex Katz, Leiko Ikemura, Otto Piene, and Richard Deacon, and presents other private collections like the Viehof and Burger collections.
Whitewaller caught up with Zerressen about the two exhibitions now on view, and what she’s excited to check out during the busy art week ahead.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us a bit about the two shows now on view: “A Sublime World” and “Anne Pöhlmann – Japan Room.”
KARLA ZERRESSEN: On the occasion of her solo presentation in the Japan Room of the Langen Foundation, the Düsseldorf- based artist Anne Pöhlmann is presenting a selection of works that she created during her three-month fellowship in Japan (2017) organized by the Goethe-Institut. These works are being shown in the same room as new wall pieces and installative works developed especially for this exhibition. The site-specific installation includes photographs printed on fabric and then woven into garments or combined with various found textiles. The artist worked with many different materials, such as Japanese silk or reused fashion items from her personal archive, which she has integrated into her artistic practice.
WW: In “A Sublime World” you’re sharing works from your late grandparents’ Japan Collection, including over 80 objects. What is seen here?
KZ: We are working with an external curator—the renowned Japan expert Dr. Khanh Trinh from the Museum Rietberg in Zürich—who provides a new perspective on the fundament of the Langen Foundation. The works are divided into three thematic areas: religious art, flowers and birds, and landscapes. The focus lies on revealing the stylistic and form-related diversity within each of the categories. For instance, detailed naturalistic renderings of flora and fauna from the Kano school are juxtaposed with stylized, abstract compositions from the Rinpa tradition.
WW: In “Anne Pöhlmann – Japan Room” there are works made by the artist during her time in Japan, from her “Japan Diary” series. There are photographs created on site, then sewn or printed on the fabric. Can you tell us abitmoreaboutthose?
KZ: Pöhlmann’s works interact with closed structures and open spaces in order to interlace sound and silence and to create an immersive experience. The artworks in the exhibition deal with various motifs, ranging from urban architecture and natural landscapes to portraits and abstract compositions. At the same time, they explore questions related to the material conditions of photography. Folded and draped photographs or photo fabrics are presented as flowing architectural formations in which the image coalesces with its pictorial carrier.
Pöhlmann illuminates new possibilities for investigating Japanese culture from the vantage point of the West. Instead of pursuing a distant and cliché-laden approach, the artist focuses on a personal exploration of the politicized relationship between photography and Japanese visual culture. In the process, she challenges the status of a silent documentary device and uses the camera as a subjective medium. In rediscovering her own experiences and memories, Pöhlmann compiles fragments from her personal viewpoint and suggests critical approaches related to the mediatic conditions of the photographic image.
WW: Is there anything you’re looking forward to most surrounding Art Basel?
KZ: I am very much looking forward to seeing the Art Unlimited this year, as it is the last time that Gianni Jetzer will curate the show. We worked with him on the exhibition of the collection of Max and Monique Burger, and I really appreciate his point of view.