Galerie Thoman, Innsbruck: collaborative and commissioned portraits

Michael Clegg & Martin Guttmann

collaborative and commissioned portraits

28.06.13 – 14.09.13

Clegg & Guttmann
collaborative and commissioned portraits
exhibition view

The presentation will focus on the large-scale photographic portraits of recent years. The difficult discipline of the portrait is tackled by Clegg & Guttmann by resorting to tried-and-tested artistic practices and innovative new approaches. The works thus emerging uphold the conventions of 16th and 17th century portraiture. Visibly inspired by old masters such as Rembrandt and Caravaggio, Clegg & Guttmann make use of the artistic and intellectual cosmos of past centuries in order to arrange their compositions. Thanks to the mise-en-scène of the portrait subjects between shadow, light and the enigmatic dark of the old masters, the portraits cannot but remind us of the splendour of days gone past, of a Venetian doge's claim to power, for instance, as expressed in the paintings of Titian.

The deliberate toying with the codes of status and influence within the changed political and social setting of the present helps the artists deconstruct hegemony. Through the photographic process, not least, that includes arrangement, positioning and composition, the subjects are restricted in their scope of action and their claim to authority undermined. Clegg & Guttmann reserve the means of direction. Nobody but themselves determines the arrangement of persons and historical quotes in their commissions. The subjects have to defer to the artistic process. The past's relationship between art and power is turned upside down, and art takes precedence over representation.

A special place within the exhibition is reserved for the so-called collaborative portraits. These portraits of artist colleagues conform to other patterns and conditions than those of collectors. The freedom of self-expression and autonomous representation is reserved for personalities like Franz West and Walter Pichler. They are allowed to determine how they want to be seen and how their person is put across. Herbert Brandl and Heimo Zobernig too have been given this honour. These images, consequently, are not just portraits by Clegg & Guttmann, they are collaborations with the subjects themselves.

Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann began working together in the seventies. The first met while visiting artist workshops at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Guttmann, who had studied mathematics and philosophy at Columbia University, had no artistic training whatsoever. Clegg was a student at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. After he switched to the New York School of Visual Arts, the two of them met again at Joseph Kosuth's studio. At the time, Martin Guttmann worked as the latter's assistant. The first works by the duo already were portraits of fictitious patrons. The subjects were recruited among their friends and acquaintances. Later they also engaged actors so as to show older men as representatives of power. Cult figures, such as Bill Rice or Martin Kippenberger, also began to make regular appearances in their works of the time.

Michael Clegg (b. 1957) lives and works in Berlin, and teaches artistic photography at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe. Martin Guttmann (b. 1957) lives and works in Vienna, and teaches artistic photography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

Selected exhibitions: 1987 Clegg & Guttmann Works 1986-87, Israel Museum, Jerusalem; 1989 Corporate Landscapes, Kunstverein Bremerhaven and Museum Schloss Hardenberg, Velbert-Neviges; 1991 The Open Tool Shelter: A Model, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto; 1993 Die offene Bibliothek Hamburg, Hamburger Kunstverein; 1995 Breaking the Boundaries between Art and  Life, New School for Social Research, New York; 1997 1897: Der erste Zionistenkongress in Basel, Kunsthalle Basel; 2004 The Jewish Metaphysics of Death, installation at the Jewish cemetery in Krems; 2006 MACH VS. BOLTZMANN, Secession, Vienna; 2009 Portraits, FO.CU.S BTV Stadtforum, Innsbruck; 2010 The Moderns, Revolutions in Art and Science 1890-1935, MUMOK, Vienna; 2011 The Open Debate Station, Yamuna Elbe public art project, New Delhi; 2012 Portraits and Other Cognitive Exercises 2001-2012, BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna; 2012 Les Modalités du Portrait, Centre d'Art Passerelle, Brest; 2013 Porträts – Modalitäten und Variationen, DKW Brandenburg Kunstmuseum, Cottbus

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