Cooper Gallery in Dundee are pleased to announce the first major exhibition in the UK of preeminent German conceptual artist Anna Oppermann (1940 -1993). Anna Oppermann: Cotoneaster horizontalis will feature Oppermann’s highly celebrated 1982 ensemble Cotoneaster horizontalis (Anticommunication Design) exhibited for the first time alongside drawings, prints, collages, documentary films and archival material.
Stretching and reaching out from the corner of a room, a dizzying array of images, words and objects grasp the eye and the mind with an embrace intense enough to cause vertigo. Almost visually feverish in its multiplication of associations and connections, the work of Anna Oppermann can appear impossibly complex.
Composed of hundreds and often thousands of drawings, paintings, photographs, texts, slogans and objects, Oppermann’s distinctive art works lay bare the process of perception, awareness and the very practice of thinking itself.
To name her manifestly expansive sculptural situations and to indicate their method of construction, Oppermann used the word ‘Ensemble’. During her career Oppermann created over 70 of these ensembles, generating a body of highly influential works that are still capable of interrogating and subverting the boundaries and practice of contemporary art and critiquing the ideological construction of the personal in society today.
The exhibition is conceived from a specific curatorial intention bracketed by two key moments; a period when Oppermann started exploring her notion of ‘Ensemble’ and later when she was established as a tutor at the University of Wuppertal and facing the conservative practices of academia. By drawing out the interrelation of the personal and the political in the development of Oppermann’s practice, this curatorial approach provides a context in which to situate a body of archival material that foreground the social and biographical factors informing her oeuvre. To correlate with the catalogues, personal notes, sketches, photographs and ephemera, the archival strand in the exhibition will feature a documentary film from the collection of the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany; made by the experimental German film maker Michael Geißler, it records Oppermann guiding her subject through the ensemble she produced in 1977 for documenta 6.
Process formed an integral part of Oppermann’s practice and she carefully produced an archive of material documenting her production ‘method’. By drawing on the artist’s archival intention, the exhibition will explore how to activate archival materials within a discursive exhibition situation and the role of new technologies in archival practices. This new advancement in digital archival practices was produced in response to Oppermann’s complex ensembles by researchers from Leuphana University Lüneberg, Professor Martin Warnke and Carmen Wedemeyer. One of the outcomes of their research is a software suite, enabling the viewer to explore the artist’s extensive cross-referencing within her practice, which will be featured alongside the archival material.
A forum entitled The Process of Content: on the temporality in Conceptual Art will gather UK and German philosophers, writers and curators to elaborate and amplify the histories, politics and the wider social reverberations around Conceptual Art.
Anna Oppermann: Cotoneaster horizontalis will be the first major solo exhibition of Oppermann’s work in the UK and will form the largest presentation of her work in the country since her work was featured at the Serpentine Gallery in 1981. Oppermann received international recognition for her ‘Ensembles’, which were presented in major solo exhibitions at Hamburger Kunsthalle (1992), Bonner Kunstverein (1984), and biennials including documenta (1977 and 1987) and the Venice Biennale (1980). Since her passing in 1993, her work has been realised in major solo presentations at the MoMA PS1 (1999), the Generali Foundation Vienna (2007), 30th São Paulo Biennial (2012) and at Frieze Masters (2013).
Anna Oppermann: Cotoneaster horizontalis
Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, Dundee
Exhibition: 17 October – 13 December 2014
Preview: Thursday 16 October 2014, 5.30 – 7.30pm