For modern painting the grid offered a potential escape out of the two-dimensional sphere, it could be thought as a structure rather than a surface. Like this, the grid updated painting as part of the industrial enthusiasm. Everything could be built. Everything else could be declared to be the past.
In the 1980s culture was accelerated by the spectacle of the mass media. The image itself was critiqued as a tool of power. Painting became associated with regressive concepts like originality, nostalgia and a return of craft. After questioning the authenticity and the autonomy of the art object, the artist Sherrie Levine painted game boards in 1985: stripes, checks and chevrons. Both abstract and representations of actual objects, the works, again, address seriality and originality. But they also suggested an image, which is truly potential—and at play.
In his twist of gameboard paintings, Urban Zellweger breaks with Levine’s denial of authorship. The fantasies he creates build on the modern utopia and its aftermath and, at the same time, purport a playfulness that is humorous and irreverent. As this art wants you to consider your relationship to the physical world, texture and surface become crucial elements and the ornamentality of abstraction is pushed ad absurdum. This implies a notion of the grotesque, which isn’t solely the object of the aesthetic gaze. Instead, it is a material that is engaged in the world, highlighting boundaries and reacting to unasked questions.
In consequence, Urban Zellweger’s paintings are imagistic at heart and a welcome antidote to conventional thinking. As if he were to implode the structure of abstraction, he literally builds upon it. Buildings upon buildings. Making art can be like playing a game. A set of agreed upon rules are reproduced through the situations and ideas brought to it. While some artists are working, others make their point by playing. Delivering every move with precision, exploiting strategies. Everything else could be the future.
In another grotesque play, the artist pairs the game boards with portraits of horses. An animal associated with freedom and power, which becomes a persiflage as it includes pop references to magic (Harry Potter, Pokémon). A concept, which, in turn, suggests an even more expanded notion of the potentiality of the image. If every image is a tool of power and a limitless opportunity, you might want to ride it before it jumps into the world.
Photos: Gina Folly, Courtesy: Weiss Falk and the Artist