'History of Art' – Gavin Turk
Curated by James Putnam
November 24, 2017– February 15, 2018
Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea,Milan
?History of Art? brings together paintings and sculptures by Gavin Turk juxtaposed with a selection of works by modern masters which have been kindly loaned from private collections in Italy, the UK and Germany, including Turk?s own collection. Gavin Turk draws inspiration from and responds to the work of specific artists ? Albers, Beuys, Boetti, Cesar, Duchamp, Dali, Fontana, Judd, Klein, Magritte, and Pollock ? and also references Hirst?s more contemporary medicine cabinets.
The artist has played with the recycling of art history throughout his oeuvre. His responses to other artists? often innovative works, play with the way these can be reduced to stylistic clich? or stereotypes that become their recognisable distinctive ?trademarks?. He works with imagery and motifs, often combining two or three artist references in a single painting or sculpture. He reshapes these art historical clich? together with his own to create something new and different.
Turk?s six-panel image ?Widower? is inspired both by Duchamp?s ?Fresh Widow? (1920) and Magritte?s ?The Key to Dreams? (1930). The latter was used on the cover of John Berger?s influential book Ways of Seeing (1970), in which Berger maintained that our perception is governed by what we know and what we believe, rather than what is ?real?. Turk has created a response to Berger?s book cover for his exhibition invitation as if to prompt questions about art and its relationship to thought and reality.
Like Duchamp, Turk makes puns and wordplays in his titles as a central element within his work. Adopting the principle of the readymade, he often uses discarded ?found objects?, thereby transforming the valueless into the precious. He is also fascinated with the validating function of the artist?s signature as a means of bestowing both aesthetic and commercial value on the artwork, rather like a brand or logo.
Turk?s carefully considered appropriations or borrowings critique the notion of originality and our perception of the historic avant-garde. ?History of Art? raises issues about the ?myth? of the artist, the iconic work of art, and the ?originality? of its authorship and its subsequent market value.
Turk?s imaginative homages to other artists? work are intended to provoke serious thought into deeper questions about identity and authenticity. They both reanimate and challenge the old avant-garde myths and re-instate the critiques of authorship proposed by Duchamp as well as artists who use appropriation, such as Sherrie Levine. He excavates the foundations of art history and questions how the appraisal, originality and commodity value of works of art affect their meaning.