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Michel Majerus: Progressive Aesthetics at ICA Miami

November 28, 2022–March 12, 2023

ICA Miami presents Progressive Aesthetics, the first US museum survey for Michel Majerus from November 28, 2022 to March 12, 2023.

Progressive Aesthetics, the first Michel Majerus museum survey in the United States, investigates the late artist’s prescient work by examining his vast and varied views of capitalism and cultural imperialism as they apply to art in American culture.

Majerus’ paintings, created at the turn of the century, focus on themes of metamorphosis and are distinguished by a fascination with speed, openness, and transmission. The artist’s works highlight his concern with the power of art and institutions, as well as his interest for technology, young culture, and art history.

The show gathers works from Majerus’ brief but energetic and prolific career, highlighting their contemporary reflection on and critique of the pervasiveness of images. Majerus explores the story of modernism, antagonizing twentieth-century avant-garde movements, their force, and limitations, beginning with works from the early 1990s. The exhibition contains abstract paintings that quote modern masters such as Willem de Kooning and Frank Stella, as well as works that engage with the impacts of art history on Majerus’ work.

Six works from what may be regarded the artist’s most renowned imagery are scattered throughout the various paintings in Progressive Aesthetics: serial screenprint adaptations of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s famed (and at one time infamous) 1984-85 collaboration. Majerus, who considers himself a collaborator with the elder painters, flattens the image and adds almost mechanical touches. These significant works cover many of Majerus’ key topics and reflect his conviction in the societal significance of art. They are a meditation on genius and the notion that mastery yields originality, as well as the complicated myths of his artistic forefathers.

Majerus visited the United States several times during his adult life, most notably during a yearlong stay in Los Angeles in 2000-01. Pop culture, the American landscape, materialism, and violence are important topics in his “L.A. Paintings” series, which includes Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (2001) and splash bombs 2 (2002). Another Warhol-inspired painting from 2001, 3mmT-2, depicts a NASCAR wreck as a large-scale spectacle of uncontrolled commerce and disaster. Another important series of works on display, the “Splash Bombs” paintings, pictorialize the logo for a water toy in commercial fonts, with the consequence of adopting a double entendre that integrates the threat of violence into the seduction of popular culture.

Majerus’ art took many shapes and mediums, which this exhibition can barely scratch the surface of. Continuously experimenting with the expansion of painting into space but also into the digital domain, Majerus embraced new digital reproduction technologies early on, as evidenced by works like yet sometimes what is read successfully stops us with its meaning no. I (1998). New Comer (2000) illustrates the title’s vividly colored typography, which was created using commercial lacquer on metal. WHAT LOOKS GOOD TODAY MAY NOT LOOK GOOD TOMORROW (2000) is a text work that highlights the extent to which art is defined by the time it is made, as well as the relationship of taste to economic and cultural issues.

Michel Majerus (b. 1967, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg; d. 2002, Luxembourg) lived and worked in Berlin after studying at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart (1986–92); he worked in Los Angeles in 2000–02. Significant exhibitions include a radical installation for his solo exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel (1996), a commissioned mural for the main exhibition at the Venice Biennale (1999), and a solo exhibition at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne (2000). Various museums have organized posthumous exhibitions of Majerus’s work, including Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (2011) and CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (2012); a series of retrospective exhibitions began at Kunsthaus Graz and traveled to Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Deichtorhallen Hamburg; Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover; and Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2005–07); Tate Liverpool (2004), Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2003). Majerus’s work is held in the collections of numerous international museums, including the Tate, London; Moderna Museet Stockholm; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Art Institute Chicago; Mildred Lane Kemper Museum of Art, Washington University, St. Louis; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie, Berlin; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, München; Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; and the Museum MMK für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main.

Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami
61 NE 41st Street
Miami, FL 33137
United States
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