Feldmann’s obsessive collecting of popular images and ephemera has earned him a singular position in the history of conceptual art, with his early books and photographic experiments commonly considered a rosetta stone for the birth of postmodernism. In recent years, Feldmann’s oeuvre has incorporated photography, sculpture, installation, drawing, and as highlighted in this exhibition, painting. Feldmann in fact began his art career as a painter, but quickly abandoned the medium, not satisfied with his own technical skill. Applying his extraordinary eye for images that are both categorically banal and cunningly suggestive, Feldmann’s version of a painting show consists of found paintings that are manipulated and placed into unexpected dialogues. Whether nudging insipid aristocratic portraits toward transcendent farce or uncovering hidden secrets in the pabulum of vernacular landscape painting, Feldmann begins to dissect the force that images enact upon the subconscious, simultaneously subverting and sublimating their capacities.
In another perversion of the exalted stature of the artwork, the majority of paintings in this exhibition are to be suspended from the ceiling as opposed to hung on the walls. As in Lina Bo Bardi’s design for the Museu de Arte de Sao Paolo (1968), this ‘floating installation’ democratizes the experience of the artwork, putting the viewer on equal ground with the paintings. Viewed as a collection of objects rather than an arrangement of metaphysical tableaux, the paintings inhabit space as things-themselves, a stark contrast to the contrived, impenetrable status symbols often conferred onto works of art.
This notion is very much in keeping with Feldmann’s general modus operandi, wherein his paintings are sourced from auctions before being altered or “arranged.” His ‘Sea Paintings’ for example, consist simply of 15 seascape paintings (both old and new, large and small, and from a mix of amateurs and better known painters such as Patrick von Kalckreuth) arranged salon style on a single wall. Repetition becomes a disjunctive impulse, as the paintings in combination with each other begin to reveal a certain latency of shared experience, a tabula rasa through which we can appreciate not only the impulse to paint and reproduce nature, but the construction of nature itself.