Venice Biennale

herman de vries, steigerwald cosmology, 2010 ca. 550 x 550 x 50 cm. photo: herman de vries archive

herman de vries
to be all ways to be
Dutch entry 56th Venice Biennale

Curators: Colin Huizing and Cees de Boer
Commissioner: Mondriaan Fund
9 May-22 November 2015
Preview: 6-8 May 2015 (opening: 6 May 14:00 hrs.)

herman de vries (b. 1931) is representing The Netherlands at the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia. Under the title to be all ways to be the Dutch pavilion will exhibit new sculptures, objects, works on paper and photography by de vries. The exhibition is curated by Colin Huizing and Cees de Boer.

herman de vries near falsbrun, steigerwald. photo: susanne de vries

Educated as a biologist and natural scientist, herman de vries has been working for more than sixty years on an uncommonly versatile oeuvre in which art, science and philosophy are juxtaposed with the reality of the world. His focus stems from natural processes and phenomena, presented by him as the primary, physical reality in which human existence is rooted. de vries gathers, orders, isolates and displays objects from nature, directing our attention to both the oneness and the diversity of the world surrounding us. The strength and richness of de vries’ oeuvre stems from the biotope that he has developed in his hometown of Eschenau (Germany) and the places he visited during his travels, including Venice.

The open, transparent and spatially poetic character of the Dutch pavilion in the Giardini in Venice built by Rietveld in 1954 symbolizes the rational and optimistically progressive way of thinking that prevailed during the first half of the Twentieth Century. The work of herman de vries, made from organic and natural materials counters this notion and attests to the idea that processes and phenomena in nature are too complex to explain in a rational manner.

herman de vries, from earth: la gomera, 2000. four parts of 200x140cm. photo: archive herman de vries

The title of the exhibition to be all ways to be, expresses the idea that the experience of and reflection on human existence takes many divergent paths, none of which is superior or inferior to the other. Experienced through the eye, ear, body and nose, the works within the pavilion, the Giardini and at different locations within the Venetian Lagoon, will question existing definitions and positions with regard to nature and culture.

As part of the exhibition herman de vries has explored the physical and natural surroundings of the city of Venice, the Giardini and the Lagoon. With his giornale di venezia he will bring this context into the Dutch pavilion. He also invites the art public to take notice of the habitat: special boat trips will bring people to de vries’s sanctuarium: natura mater at the Lazzaretto Vecchio, an uninhabited, historically important island south of the City.

herman de vries (b. 1931) lives and works in Eschenau (Germany). Having previously been actively involved in the exhibitions and publications of the international ZERO movement, he has since then developed a unique body of work in which art, science and philosophy are juxtaposed with the reality of the world. Works by herman de vries are included in museum collections worldwide. In 2014 and 2015 herman de vries takes part in the retrospective ZERO exhibitions in the Guggenheim Museum New York, Martin Gropius Bau Berlin and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

herman de vries, die steine (detail), 2009. stone on oak 110x12x12 cm. photo: archive herman de vries

Colin Huizing (b. 1965) is chief curator at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. He curates exhibitions on artists and important developments in the visual arts since 1960 until today. In 2011 he organized in close cooperation with the ZERO Foundation (Düsseldorf) the exhibition nul = 0, dutch avant-garde in an international context, 1961-1966. In 2014 he curated the exhibition herman de vries – all in the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam.

Cees de Boer (b. 1955) studied General Literature and Philosophy and was awarded a Ph.D. for his research on the collage novels of Max Ernst. Currently he works as a freelance curator, art critic and art advisor. He published books on Sjoerd Buisman and Norman Dillworth; in 2000 he curated Ulay: Performing Light at de Appel arts centre, Amsterdam together with the artist. September 2014 appeared his study of philosophical aspects of the work of herman de vries: Overal stroomt mijn oog.

The publication accompanying herman de vries – to be all ways to be at the Venice Biennial 2015, will focus on the exhibition in the Dutch Pavilion, in which his Eschenau habitat and his exploration of the Venetian Laguna will both be present. While the presentation for the bigger part consists of recent works, esteemed critic and curator Jean-Hubert Martin (Magiciens de la Terre, Centre Georges Pompidou / Grande Halle Parc de la Vilette, 1989; Affinités insolites, Grand Palais Paris, April 2016) will explore, through a dialogue with herman de vries, the many-faceted ways of being and seeing that herman de vries offers the public since he in 1975 made the fundamental choice to present nature as art. Through aesthetic, artistic, antropologic, ecologic and other perspectives the beauty, fascination and the urgency of de vries’s oeuvre will become clear. The publication will be published by Valiz.

herman de vries, rosa damascena (detail), 1984-present installation size variable Photo: Christian Blei, Stuttgart

The Dutch pavilion at the Venice Biennale is a significant platform for furthering the international appreciation of contemporary art from the Netherlands, by producing new and topical work dealing with relevant themes in art and society. The Mondriaan Fund is responsible for the Dutch entry to the Venice Biennale. For the 56th edition the Mondriaan Fund again issued an open call to curators, who were asked to produce a plan together with one or more artists in keeping with a State event. A specially appointed jury selected the de vries and Huizing/De Boer plan from five shortlisted proposals. The jury consisted of Hester Alberdingk Thijm (director AkzoNobel Art Foundation), Saskia Bos (dean Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art), Aernout Mik (visual artist), Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen (curator Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and chairperson Birgit Donker (director Mondriaan Fund).