Kunsthalle Zürich is pleased to announce new solo exhibitions by Pippa Garner and Ibrahim El-Salahi.
Born in 1942 in Illinois, the artist and author Pippa Garner pushes back against systems of consumerism, marketing and waste. Her uncompromising approach to life and practice has allowed her to interact with the worlds of illustration, editorial, television and art without ever quite becoming beholden to them.
When asked what the abiding value of her childhood was, Pippa Garner once replied: consumption. Studying at the Transportation Design Department of ArtCenter in Los Angeles after coming back from the Vietnam war, Garner began to take photographs that were published in Esquire, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Playboy or Car & Driver and Arts & Architecture. In the 1970s, she conceived numerous objects that were positioned between design, humour and parody and were made public in wildly popular publications.
In the 1980s Garner decided to change sex and procured the means to do so on the black market. “I didn’t necessarily ask to be white or male or transgender, it’s the package that I’m in. I like the sense of weirdness that this perspective generates, because it’s not a comfortable way of approaching life, to have this abstraction of who you are.” (Pippa Garner in Spike) This ‘weirdness’ of perspective combined with unabashed invention and autobiographical honesty became her trademark and turned into an oeuvre that continually defies classification.
Ibrahim El-Salahi is one of the key figures of African Modernism, and the rifts and hopes of an entire century are mirrored in his biography and art. El-Salahi founded the so-called Karthum School; he travelled throughout the US, Mexico and Brazil in the 1960s; he was a cultural attaché for Sudan and later the Sudanese Director of Culture; and among many other things, a member of the legendary Mbari Club in Nigeria with future Nobel laureates Wole Soyinka and Nagib Mahfuz. In 1976, El-Salahi was imprisoned for six months without charge in connection with an attempted coup before going into exile in Qatar and ultimately settling in the United Kingdom.
El-Salahi was one of the first artists to deliberately try to un-learn the art of Europe (where he had studied at Oxford) in order, from the end of the 1950s onwards, to arrive at a new art through his head-on engagement with his origins and Sudanese traditions. This is what makes his work more relevant today than ever.
Kunsthalle Zürich is presenting a very focused insight into El-Salahi’s 60-year oeuvre: a group of 89 small-format Pain Relief Drawings, which the artist has been creating since 2016. “When I am drawing, my mind is concentrated and I can forget about the pain. [...] It’s a mental thing—when I concentrate, my mind goes from the pain to what I am drawing. Drawing for me is a kind of meditation.”
Pippa Garner: Act Like You Know Me is co-curated by Fiona Alison Duncan, New-York based author, Maurin Dietrich, Director Kunstverein Munich, and Daniel Baumann, Kunsthalle Zürich, in collaboration with Otto Bonnen, assistant curator Kunsthalle Zürich, and artist Miriam Laura Leonardi. The exhibition in Zürich takes on and expands the exhibition on show at Kunstverein Munich in 2022. Further facets of Garner’s work can be seen in the parallel exhibition at 49 Nord 6 Est—Frac Lorraine opening on February 17.
Ibrahim El-Salahi: Pain Relief Drawings is organized by Laura Hoptman, Executive Director at The Drawing Center, New York, and is curated at Kunsthalle Zürich by Daniel Baumann.
3 February 2023