Luis Campaña, Berlin
Opening, 05.12.2014, 18-21h
6 December 2014 - 31 January, 2015
Stefan Kern, born 1966 in Hamburg, is known for his functional sculptures that invite people to sit down, to communicate or to play along. Although their themes are still recognizably oriented towards those of his teacher Franz West, their clear and distinct forms, monochrome colors and degree of perfection have, from the beginning, been owed to their implementation. Which is often accompanied by elaborate production processes that, not seldom, first needed to be developed.
Stefan Kern, as ever, lays great stress on the artisanal process that is very protracted and also potentially very uneconomical. For this reason he prefers to call himself a sculptor rather than an artist.
With the sculptures being shown at Galerie Luis Campaña, Stefan Kern has explored new paths without giving up his artistic principles. These, on the one hand, are based on starting out with objects that already exist and, on the other, recrafting them by hand.
He reworks, bends, hones and lacquers aluminum sheet metal into handbag sculptures that, in their formal makeup, imitate well-known designer pieces. Their abstract look does not claim to be an exact metal copy of the leather or synthetic-fabric models. They rather reconstruct the intention of the designs and render homage, among others, to their creators. These include, e.g., Issey Miyake’s Bao Bao bags collection, the “gun” shoulder bag from the House of Yves Saint Laurent, or the Moschino series inspired by the McDonald logo. They point to the relationship of the wearer to her handbag and the image it conveys. Comparable to art, fashion is always and ever an aesthetic phenomenon in which each form, each material, and each idea can become the medium. Brands draw on pop culture and are themselves raised to cult labels. The complex configuration of the images, along with the creative act, requires the calculated staging of advertising, or - transplanted to art - of exhibition management. This is not about the practical value of the bag/the art. The one as well as the other serve as free projection screens, charged with emotional and sensual qualities and longings. In addition, designer handbags now appear in limited editions and are thus converted into sought-after collection items.
The handbag is a very ambivalent object that not only conveys a certain image but, in the same way, is also a very private product in which practical as well as impractical items are toted around. Its contents are seen as a psychograph of the wearer, and scientific studies and statistics report that women spend 76 days of their life rummaging through their handbags.
We need only quote Elfriede Jelinek who wrote in her article on the fashion icon, Rudi Gernreich: “...talking about fashion means really uncovering the covert, that is, simultaneously considering it as a pose.”(1) A statement that can be taken with a grain of salt and can just as easily be assigned to handbags as to art.
Stefan Kern has up to now arranged his “bags” so that, from the ceiling, they hang freely in space. Visitors can stroll through their rows where they eventually become aware of the fact that these light-hearted, colorful and sparkling sculptures are hanging from hooks in a slashed-open and damaged state. A closer look reminds us more of disfigured scrap than of luxury items.
In times when the art trade is celebrated, the pieces thematize the questionability of market mechanisms that arouse dubious desires and rarely encompass any ethical dimensions. Social values are pushed aside, which especially describes the reality of the fashion industry and its ruthless exploitation of people, something casually taken for granted by us as consumers. And finally, Kern’s bag sculptures can also be understood as an allegory of merely skin-deep beauty.
The artist lives and works in Hamburg. Over the past years his works have been shown in solo exhibitions at the Akademie der Künste (2009), at Kunstverein Hamburg (2002) and at Portikus (2000).
Text: Vera Gliem
(1) Elfriede Jelinek, “Anstatt einer Ausstattung“ (on Rudi Gernreich), source:
Luis Campaña Gallery
Axel Springer Str. 43
T: +49 30 76216506
Luis Campaña Gallery
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