The Alan Cristea Gallery is proud to present a solo exhibition of works by Dutch artist Jan Dibbets from 21 March – 20 April 2013. The exhibition will focus on two very distinct and enduring aspects of his work, namely the Land-Sea Horizons and Colour Studies, and will be held across both of the gallery’s Cork Street spaces. The show will be accompanied by a catalogue written by Brian Wallis, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions at the International Center of Photography, New York, and co-author of the recent Phaidon publication Land and Environmental Art.
A pioneer of conceptualism in the 1960s, Jan Dibbets was one of the first artists to challenge traditional perceptions of the photographic image. From the outset, his work sought to deconstruct the notion that the camera was a mechanical tool whose primary function was to capture and record three-dimensional images solely to be printed onto a two-dimensional surface. To Dibbets, photography was, and still is, an artistic medium as versatile and complex as any other and one which can be used to create abstraction, figuration and directly challenge notions about how pictorial space is depicted and viewed.
A major component of Dibbets early explorations used multiple photographic images of fragments of land and seascapes collaged together to create illusory ‘horizons’; this subject has remained at the heart of much of his work to the present day and has its roots in the seminal 1973 Comet series. Examples of this small body of ground-breaking installations are held in the collections of the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and were exhibited at MoMA, New York in 1974.
The exhibition at the Alan Cristea Gallery will contain one of these rare early pieces, never before exhibited in the UK outside of a museum. This will be shown alongside more recent related works including two portfolios of photographs in which, by tilting his camera a few degrees at a time to create an incline, Dibbets presents images of land and sea pitched at different horizon levels, from 0 degrees to 135 degrees. In doing so he emphasizes the role of the horizon as both the structuring principle of the photograph and as a subjective element, vulnerable to manipulation by the artist. These will be accompanied by an entirely new body of work entitled Land-Sea Horizons, a series of photo-collages, each of which juxtaposes a land and a sea horizon, morphing them into a single image.
Dibbets’ Colour Studies are in direct and stark contrast to the constructed forms and lines of the Horizons. Initiated in 1975, this work removes both the traditional ‘subject’ and formal structure from the photographic image. Whilst they feature details from the polished metalwork of car bodies, they have nothing to do per se with the vehicles - they are Dibbets’ own abstractions, at once both purely photographic and painterly. These are not documentary studies nor are they chromatic reproductions of another object’s colour, but rather they are an examination into the very surface and colour properties of the photographic image itself. Once printed, the cars and their colour become almost irrelevant - it is the photographs themselves which are the subject.
As with many strands of his work, the Colour Studies reappear in various forms throughout his career. The original permutations were ground-breaking in that they constituted the first use of large-scale colour photography in an artistic context and the exhibition will contain early examples selected from the artist’s private collection alongside more recent variations. The show concludes with a new series of large photographs which represent the distillation of Dibbets explorations into colour. These astonishing works have been years in the making and cement Dibbets as one of the most important contemporary artists working with photography.
Jan Dibbets was born in Weert, Holland in 1941. Selected solo exhibitions include Musée d'Art Moderne Paris, France (2010); Miami Art Museum, Florida, USA (2007); Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands (1995); Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA: touring to Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Norton Gallery, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA and Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (1987-9); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (1986). In 1972 he represented The Netherlands at the Venice Biennale. His work is housed in numerous museum collections including the Stedlijk, Tate and MOMA. He currently lives and works in Amsterdam.