Driven by his unbridled curiosity, Joost Zwagerman has been writing for decades about the visual arts. This winter, the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag celebrates both his 50th birthday and the appearance of the latest inspired book by this self-confessed ‘incurable art-lover’ with a unique exhibition that marries his passion for the written word to his love of visual images. The show is an intriguing dialogue between the poetry of Zwagerman and the work of two friends, visual artists Pieter Bijwaard and Harald Vlugt.
Searching, experimenting, exploring, combining and expunging, the three artists respond to each other’s work with a freedom born of their close friendship. Discussing this extraordinary collaborative venture, Pieter Bijwaard says, “For an artist to collaborate with a poet is a notable act undertaken without the desire to be noticed, a statement made without wishing to have the last word”. Vlugt has created two brand new collages specifically for this exhibition. They are a response to poems written by Joost Zwagerman about the experience of visual art. The books that Zwagerman has made with the two artists over recent years will be on show in the exhibition, surrounded by the trio’s artworks and poems.
Joost Zwagerman (b.1963) is the author of over twenty-five books, including three novels, Vals licht, De buitenvrouw and Gimmick! His essay collection Transito was shortlisted for the AKO Literature Prize. A first collection of his highly discerning writings on the visual arts, Alles is gekleurd, appeared in 2011 and the following year saw the publication of his celebrated book Kennis is geluk. Over recent years, moreover, his friendships with artists have born fruit in the shape of a large number of bibliophile editions combining visual images and text. In 2008 Joost Zwagerman was the winner of the prestigious Golden Quill (Gouden Ganzenveer) literary prize for his entire oeuvre. This event sparked the idea of producing a collection of his collaborative ventures with visual artists, resulting in the 2011 book Beeld verplaatst.
Artist Pieter Bijwaard (b. 1955) is constantly seeking new avenues in his work, although his personal signature remains recognisable throughout. Ever since the mid-seventies, he has employed a uniform paper format (32.5 x 25 cm). There is just one exception: his ‘magnum opus’, Frequenties (2009-2010) is a five-fold work constructed of 42,525 hand-cut and painted jigsaw puzzle pieces. This work is now going on show for the first time in any museum. Bijwaard’s drawings bear witness to a hidden force that seems to be generated by his devotion to the medium. His love of paper has also produced dozens of outstanding artist’s books, which form an essential and distinctive part of his extensive oeuvre.
Harald Vlugt (b.1957) is known for his meticulous photo-collages and monumental sculptures, created mainly for public spaces in the Netherlands and elsewhere. Vlugt possesses a splendid printed picture archive, which he uses in the painstaking construction of his collages. With great craftsmanship and a playful imagination, he cuts and pastes his materials to create compact, surreal compositions. New digital media offer him endless opportunities to enlarge these intimate collages to a size fitting them for display in monumental public spaces.
Joost Zwagerman’s new book, Americana, omzwervingen in de Amerikaanse cultuur is due to be published by De Arbeiderspers on 30 October 2013. Paperback – 2-volume boxed set | ISBN 978-90-295-8856-0 | € 49.95 | 1216 pages |e-book |ISBN 978-90-295-9236-9 | RRP € 19.99
During the exhibition, there will be an exclusive opportunity to purchase Joost Zwagerman and Pieter Bijwaard’s new publication, ‘Inwaarts’, in the museum shop.