Het Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is famous for its great Mondrian collection (the biggest anywhere in the world), attractive collection of classic modern works and extensive fashion collection. However, this exhibition turns the spotlight on a completely different section of the museum’s in-house holdings: its installations. The collection includes iconic installations by artists like Bruce Nauman, J.C.J. van der Heyden and Louise Bourgeois (whose Cell XXVI has recently been acquired). The last few years have seen a number of major acquisitions and some of these installations, by artists such as Karla Black, Mark Dion, Aukje Koks and David Jablonowski, will now be on show for the first time ever at the Gemeentemuseum. Complex Images offers not just an all-round sensory experience, but also considerable food for thought: some of the works inhabit a middle ground between sculpture and installation art; so what exactly is the definition of an installation?
In today’s world, artists enjoy enormous freedom of expression. They can choose to work in traditional materials or in less conventional ones like earth, soap, metal, plastic, foil or tape. The possibilities are endless, especially in the installation field. Take the work of Scottish artist Karla Black, for example. It tends to be made of materials you might find in your toilet bag or kitchen cabinet. Complex Images includes her installation ‘Without Wishing’, spread over three rooms. Made of a variety of materials, including earth and large blocks of soap, the work launched Black’s international career when it was shown at the 2011 Venice Biennale and has since been purchased by the Gemeentemuseum.
Another section of the exhibition features new work by American artist Mark Dion, one of the most attention-grabbing artists around today. The Gemeentemuseum has recently purchased one of his fantastical cabinets of curiosities: a glass display case in which Dion has arranged a fascinating collection of jars containing a variety of plastic objects, from dog toys to dildos. Another extraordinary exhibit is a work by Aukje Koks, an artist who shuttles between the Netherlands and Belgium. Her fascination with reality and illusion produces exciting, rather disconcerting works. As she explores the dividing line between painting and sculpture, you find yourself constantly wondering where sculpture or scenery ends and painting begins. For this show at the Gemeentemuseum, she is recreating her installation entitled ‘The Crown Fold’.
Emerging talent David Jablonowski exhibited last year in the Projects Gallery of the Gemeentemuseum. With help from Outset Netherlands, the museum has recently purchased work by him and this is on show now for the first time, in combination with works by well-known artists Berlinde De Bruyckere, Paul Thek, Fred Sandback and Folkert de Jong. Complex Images also has a tinge of local flavour: Hague artist Piet van den Heuvel (1935-2004) – better known as Napaku – sent a multitude of collages to Daan van Golden over the years. The two artists had met during military service and remained good friends ever after. Van Golden took loving care of Napaku’s collages and finally donated them to the museum. Especially for this exhibition, he will install the series of collages.