Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (table / table)

Riet Wijnen

Kunstverein proudly presents Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (table / table) the first solo show by dutch artist Riet Wijnen in Italy.

12.02 - 19.03.2022

@ Assab One

The project is part of Wijnen's ongoing cycle of work entitled Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (2015--) in which she explores the socio-historical scope and breadth of the notion abstraction, and offers a broad insight into the artist's investigative methodology, bringing her textual and visual work as it zooms in on female modernist artists and a tangible strand of a specific historical feminist movement.

Fifty years after the formation of the International Feminist Collective in Padova (Italy) in 1972 which had tasked itself to launch Wages for Housework campaigns in four different countries, Wijnen's exhibition in Milan is dedicated to the Italian-American scholar and activist Silvia Federici, one of the founders of the Collective and front woman of the New York Wages for Housework Campaign, as well as one of the characters in Wijnen's work Conversation Four: First Person Moving (2016).

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Interested in historical personalities and narratives, Wijnen explores the notion abstraction in relation to language and perception, analysing its historiography, its discursive gaps and narrative potential in different fields, starting with early modernism in art and shifting gradually towards broader implications of the concept in fields such science, philosophy and activism. The seemingly unexpected correlations this brings forth is where her body of work in the cycle Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction intersects with (historical) emancipatory movements such as feminism.
The main organizing principle of the cycle consists of sixteen fictional conversations bringing together significant figures, subjects and positions from those different fields and times; sixteen subsequent works; and a table sculpture which functions as a diagram or score, mapping the connections amongst the different protagonists and topics in the conversations. The artist states “The openness and transformative character of the conversation render it a suitable format to discuss the relationship between language and abstraction.”

Riet Wijnen, The Table, Silvia Federici
In Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (table / table) Wijnen employs different media and formats - sculptures, woodblock prints, fotograms and diagrams, text, fictional conversations, and type design - including new productions, such as the table and drawer projected to hold and share the documentation of The NY Wages For Housework collective—donated by Silvia Federici to MayDay Rooms in London, kindly loaned for the exhibition and made available to the Italian public—thus exploring, through the lens of abstraction, the feminist commitment of the well-known activist and scholar. The table also indicates a turn in the formal language of the cycle of works that follows the orientation of research and conversations towards female artists who have remained underrepresented in the canon of (art) history, deviating from the hermetic formalism and primary colours inspired by movements such as De Stijl and neoplasticism, towards more organic materials, non-primary colours and also introducing circular forms.
The presence of the table, which plays a central role in the project and Wijnen's recent work, builds a bridge to Federici's own work. At the heart of every domestic environment is the table as the place around which social roles and gender relations are expressed, understood and transmitted from one generation to the next. But it is also, as Silvia Federici testifies starting from her own childhood experiences and reflections on decades on domestic and reproductive work, the space in which moments of transformation in society are conceived, discussed and animated. Through the proposition of ‘the table’, Wijnen aims in turn to establish a connection with the history of the second-wave feminist movements that began in northern Italy.
Writing conversations, Wijnen investigates the potential of imaginary scenarios as a method of opening up and questioning historical and socio-political constructs. The exhibition thus acts both as a framework and mirror for the contents of the cycle Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction, between the concrete and the abstract, the material and the conceptual, history and canon with their alternative readings. But also as a moment of reflection starting from the relationships with voices, ideas and practices that are interwoven in the present.

Artist's book, out in Summer 2022
Love Doesn't Pay the Bills, is the working title of an artist's book that will be published in the second half of 2022
The connections between the Wages for Housework Campaigns and present day concerns will be further unraveled in a literally fundamental new work: a children's book. It takes the archival material from the Wages for Housework Campaigns as a starting point to effectively consider the passing down of knowledge from generation to generation. With the aim to address the youngest generations directly it sets in motion a learning process that is eventually centered on unlearning and undoing existing, historically enforced, social constructions.
The book is conceived by Riet Wijnen, and developed in collaboration with Falke Pisano, Simnikiwe Buhlungu and designed by David Bennewith.

On the occasion of the exhibition
Kunstverein is thrilled to present an additional work by Riet Wijnen: Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction: Tool One (Template Rulers 1-5), a set of 5 template rulers, designed by five artists and graphic designers from a variety of locations, contexts and practices: Dafne Boggeri, Linda van Deursen, Mandy El-Sayegh, Ima-Abasi Okon and Haegue Yang, upon invitation by Wijnen, and collected in a handmade etui designed by the artist. Riet Wijnen has been using the template ruler in her work to come to type designs which balance between abstract forms and readable letters. Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction: Tool One (Template Rulers 1-5) is also a new addition to the cycle, a work that reconsiders language, meaning, the act of writing, and reading, abstraction, history, the canon and its alternatives. These template rulers have also been applied for the realisation of some of the new works (sculptures and woodblock prints) in the exhibition in Milan.
The edition is produced on the occasion of Wijnen’s solo exhibition Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (table / table) and is co-published with Kunstverein Toronto, San Seriffe, Amsterdam and P/////AKT, Amsterdam.

The artist
Riet Wijnen (b.1988, Venray, NL. Lives in Amsterdam) is an artist whose practice involves sculpture, photograms, working through texts, woodcuts and more recently, type design. She is interested in incomplete histories of abstraction, and what and who are already there in ways we might not yet know. To do this she looks to elders, hosting practitioners from the past and present within her work who have been active in the field art during early modernism, or in science, philosophy, education and activism. Bringing them together through fictional conversations and sculptures to reconsider histories and better understand what comes next, Wijnen centers perception, language and organizational structures. This research comes together in the cycle Sixteen Conversations on Abstraction (2015) and publications related to language and biographies of female modernists that provide sources for her practice while functioning independently, such as Saloua Raouda Choucair (2022), Homophone Dictionary (2019), Grace Crowley (2019), Abstraction Création: Art non-figuratif (reprint and translation) (2014) and Marlow Moss (2013). Wijnen has had solo exhibitions at venues including Manifold Books, Amsterdam (2019); Lumen Travo, Amsterdam (2018); P/////AKT, Amsterdam (2016) and Dolores, Ellen de Bruijne Projects, Amsterdam (2015). She was a resident at the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten (2017–18) and has participated in groups shows at, among others, SculptureCenter, New York; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton; The Center for Contemporary Art & Culture at PNCA, Portland; Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons, Utrecht and Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Stockholm. Wijnen teaches in the Graphic Design and TXT department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam and in 2022 is a resident at the Van Doesburghuis in Paris and Sundaymorning@ekwc in Oisterwijk, NL.

The exhibition was organised with a contribution from Mondriaan Fund , Fondazione Cariplo and with the support of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Milan, ASSAB ONE for contemporary arts, and kunstverein's members and patrons.
Many thanks to MayDay Rooms for the collaboration and the precious loan of the archive of the New York Wages for Housework Campaign, donated by Silvia Federici.

Assab One is a non profit organisation founded by Elena Quarestani that aims at providing artists with a non-conventional environment for research and expression. Assab One produces and promotes exhibitions, events and art projects focusing on initiatives that integrate different languages capable of reaching beyond the art world.

MayDay Rooms, London is archive, resource and safe haven for social movements, experimental and marginal cultures and their histories.

Opening: 12.02. 2022 (4-8pm).
The exhibition is open from 13 February until 19 March 2022
Wednesday through Friday from 3-7pm / and by appointment)

photo: Andrea Rossetti