4 February – 2 April 2017
Karel Martens has ten hands for every finger. He’s an artist, a typographer, a graphic designer, a bookmaker, and an educator. He co-founded a school. He’s influenced thousands.
That said, Motion will be appropriately dexterous and tentacular – comprising an experiential exhibition of Martens’ work within a staircase and three rooms, which extends outwards through a series of discursive events in Munich, Amsterdam, Paris, Vilnius, and New York, as well as through a publication (co-published with Roma Publications, Amsterdam). Altogether, Motion will afford a compound view on an expansive practice, and chart a road map. Yet while all of that spans over 50 years of Martens inter-disciplinary activity, the exhibition will remain grounded firmly in the present (and future).
Of course, the exhibition will include some representative works – mono-prints of and on found materials, paper reliefs, videos, modular wallpapers, kinetic sculptures, a very early optical work. Consider all of that a contextual substrate that corroborates Marten’s responsive and systematic approach to color, format, type, and material. And his immense influence as an educator will also be centrally positioned within the exhibition, with a selection of publications by his former students displayed on tables Martens designed for the Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem, NL (the school he co-founded in 1998). Consider all of that a demonstrative charting of influence. Yet the primary focus will be on Martens’ most recent work, with several new commissions – wallpaper made up of multicolored icons, interactive video projections, a massive abstract clock. These are being produced for the exhibition, while existing works are being specially reconfigured. It will be immersive – layered with color inversions over entire spaces, multiplied by real-time mirroring, and attuned with technique, systematic seriality, conceptual operations, and a multi-functional zone.
A tendency to reconfigure will also extend to the new publication Martens is producing with Julie Peeters, which will be available at the opening.
The publication will also fuel an array of satellite events, which will begin in Munich and culminate in New York. Each is being specifically tailored to the conditions of each venue, and to different aspects of Martens’ practice – from Martens’ influence as an educator (4 February, Kunstverein München, Munich) to the reference material Martens collects and generates around his work (9 February, San Serriffe, the Rietveld Library, Amsterdam), from the unrealized proposals Martens injected into his new publication (24 March, Section 7, Paris) to Martens’ accounting of past and most recent work (17 February, CAC Reading Room, Vilnius). All of this will culminate, openly, in a final event through which the entire Karel Martens project may be discussed and extended, simultaneously (7 April, P!, New York).
In other words, Motion is not intended to display Martens’ practice, but instead as an embodied demonstration of his method.
Funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes.
Motion, 2017. Installation views Kunstverein München e.V., 2017. Courtesy Kunstverein München e.V., photographs by: Johannes Schwartz