Cosima von Bonin // Poul Gernes
On 18 January Galleri Bo Bjerggaard will open its first exhibition of German artist Cosima von Bonin (born 1962) and Danish Poul Gernes (1925-96), thus adding a chapter to the two artists’ shared story, which began in the 1990s when Cosima von Bonin first became familiar with the distinctive Danish artist’s work. Von Bonin’s husband, artist Michael Krebber, had just returned from an extended stay in Copenhagen, where he had got the catalogue of Gernes’ show at Sophienholm, which von Bonin quickly became interested in and more or less commandeered.
In 2001 she incorporated Gernes’ work in her show at the Kunstverein Hamburg with the dedicated title Bruder Poul sticht in See [Brother Poul Sets Sail]. “Brother” naturally referred to Gernes’ involvement in the Experimental Art School (Eks-skolen), which he was the co-founder of in 1961. The nautical reference comes from Gernes’ love of boats, which he shared with the public on many occasions, including Louisiana’s controversial 1970 group exhibition Tabernakel, in which he set up a boat-building workshop. In 1967 he built a wooden and polyester catamaran, which von Bonin echoed in a 2001 exhibit of her own catamaran at the Kunstverein Hamburg.
In von Bonin’s work the boat further became a symbol of the order that pertains in the maritime world. She is often preoccupied with power structures – gender-related, social and commercial – and points them out in a personal, often humorous, way. For example, the white textile squares of sewn-together men’s handkerchiefs forming a kind of grid in her monochromatic series MEN’S HANDKERCHIEFS have an obvious feminine connotation while remaining neat and refined gentlemen’s accessories. The white monochromes can be seen as a repudiation of the modernist notion of non-hierarchical picture surface, of which Gernes, inter alia, was an exponent. In the work, von Bonin elegantly points out the social structure represented by the white squares, whereby the hierarchy is re-established.
The exhibition at Galleri Bo Bjerggaard adds another layer of intertextuality to the two artists’ mutual work practices. The 1967 catamaran will be included in the show as a nod to “Schwester Cosima”. In addition to MEN’S HANDKERCHIEFS, the exhibition will include other textile works and sculpture by von Bonin, who often creates installations across several media. In addition, Gernes’ 1972 series of European Federation flags and works on masonite will be on display.
Von Bonin was born in Mombasa, Kenya and lives and works in Cologne. She is represented in several large collections, including New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and London’s Tate Britain, and had a solo presentation at last year’s Art Basel. In 1997 she was included in Louisiana’s NowHere and in 2007 participated – as did Gernes – in Documenta 12 in Kassel.
Gernes’ and von Bonin’s paths will cross again in spring 2013, when Stockholm’s newly opened Artipelag will have two exhibitions of the artists. Although Gernes is perhaps best known as a popular artist who made a significant mark on Danish decorative arts, there is growing international interest in the works of his later years. In 2010-11 Hamburg’s Deichtorhallen held the large, critically acclaimed exhibition Poul Gernes ‒ Retrospektive, which was subsequently shown at the Malmö and Lund galleries.
The public is invited to the vernissage from 4-6 p.m. on 18 January. That same day the Gallery will also be opening the exhibition The Room featuring Dutch artist Marcel van Eeden (born 1965). Cosima von Bonin // Poul Gernes can be seen until Saturday, 2 March.