Art & Art History
Bicycle Thieves is a summer-long project, held at eleven exhibition spaces in Chicago and Milwaukee, featuring the work of 21 Scandinavian artists coming out of the dynamic exhibition scene in and around Copenhagen, Denmark. For this exhibition, Gallery 400 presents artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, along with Gitte Villesen.
Elmgreen and Dragset’s work investigates how meaning is constructed in private and institutional architectural spaces. They are particularly interested in inflecting these spaces with signifiers of gay sexuality, with often surreal, incongruous results. In the back rooms of gay bars, anonymous sex acts and acts of voyeurism are facilitated through modified architecture. Holes are cut into walls to provide places for eyes and dicks, and men are encouraged to watch, suck, or get sucked off. For their installation in Gallery 400, Elmgreen and Dragset cut perfect holes in stretched white canvases and suspended them from the ceiling. The result is a sexually charged stage set masquerading as a minimalist installation. There are also mirrored stools, a way to make visible what is usually obscured—the ass and balls—a specific kind of gay voyeurism. Two pairs of white pants are crumpled up on the floor, the relics of a possible performance. We imagine the artists arrived at the gallery, created their set, performed the suggested acts, and then left. The audience is free to choose whether to re-perform, or simply try to visualize, what had already happened.
Gitte Villesen’s photos and videos are focused on the people in her everyday life. Villesen is always present in her videos, either in voice or in person, reinforcing the subjectivity of her approach. Willy, an elderly man from her hometown of Jutland, is the subject of the two videos and one photo-series included in this show. In the video Willy Goes for a Drive, Villesen follows Willy as he leaves his house to go for a drive in his car. The video Who Gets the Food is about Willy and the alley cats who once stole his food. By documenting a performance of Willy’s everyday activities, Villesen reveals something of the way we create meaning in our lives.
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Erickson, Karl. “Bicycle Thieves in Chicagoland.” New Art Examiner, Oct. 1998, p. 39.
Michael Elmgreen (born 1961) and Ingar Dragset (born 1968) are a collaborative duo of visual artists who have worked together since 1995, when they met at a bar in Copenhagen, Denmark. Elmgreen and Dragset’s work investigates how meaning is constructed in private and institutional architectural spaces. They are particularly interested in inflecting these spaces with signifiers of gay sexuality, with often surreal, incongruous results. They are known for work that has wit and subversive humor, and that looks at serious cultural concerns. Previous group exhibitions include Between You & Me (1996) at Overgaden, Copenhagen; and Art Against AIDS (1995) at Galleri Nicolai Wallner and Michael Andersen, Copenhagen.
Gitte Villesen (born 1965) lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin. Using unpretentious imagery, Villesen creates video works that evoke the everyday lives of various acquaintances, which have become her primary subjects. Her works set the stage for various social interactions to occur both on camera and behind the scenes. She strategically positions herself as a “participant observer” who shapes and produces the reality that she records by relying on an interactive process—in other words, a game of social representation, activated by the camera. Through Villesen ’s work, this activity is framed as a specific form of participation embedded in the reality that it appears to document. Villesen has exhibited internationally since the mid-1990s. In 1995, her solo show Tre gange ludo (Three Times Ludo) was held at Galleri Nicolai Wallner and Michael Andersen, Copenhagen. Villesen studied literature at the University of Copenhagen, and later studied at the Academy of Fyn, Odense, Denmark. She is currently a student at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen.
Bicycle Thieves is made possible by the School of Art and Design, the College of Architecture and the Arts, and supported in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. Bicycle Thieves is part of a series of exhibitions of Scandinavian contemporary art in the Chicago area organized in cooperation with the Danish Contemporary Art Foundation.