Koen Vanmechelen. The Worth of Life 1982-2019
From 4 October 2019 to 2 February 2020 the USI Teatro dell'architettura in Mendrisio presents the exhibition "Koen Vanmechelen. The Worth of Life 1982-2019" promoted by the Fondazione Teatro dell’architettura with the collaboration of the Academy of Architecture of the Università della Svizzera italiana.
Koen Vanmechelen (1965) is a Flemish artist or, more precisely, an artist from Limburg. Which is to say, hailing from the very region – embedded in between Westphalia, Brabant and the Netherlands – that gave birth to Bruegel, Bosch and Rubens. The same area where Joseph Beuys was also born a few centuries later. An artist of international renown, Koen Vanmechelen has centered his work on the relation between nature and culture. Acclaimed for his exploration of the intersections between art and science, the artist tries, through his projects, to understand and respond to the great challenges of the 21st century.
"Koen Vanmechelen. The Worth of Life 1982-2019", curated by Didi Bozzini, is an exhibition of more than sixty-five pieces – all realized between 1982 and 2019 – intended to highlight the more strictly plastic aspects of this artist’s body of work, with particular reference to his neo-baroque disposition.
Sculptor, painter, performer, filmmaker and scholar, as well as human-rights activist – throughout the course of an almost forty-year-long journey – the artist has rounded out his projects for the hybridization of both animals and plants with the contamination of figurative arts, materials and media, making formal proliferation within conceptual complexity his own, personal earmark in a creative universe that is as unique as it is unmistakable. His art is at the same time the expression of both an aesthetic of wonder and an ethic that is rooted in the very worth of life. From the first wooden sculptures in the 80s, to a vast project of research – aimed at the generation of new breeds of poultry – to the recent opening of an impressive biocultural diversity park called LABIOMISTA, where great architectures and natural landscapes are inhabited by installations, artworks and birds of the most disparate kinds.
Through a path in dynamic balance between knowledge and imagination, soul and animal, beauty and righteousness, Vanmechelen tries with each work to recreate the complexity of life, to magnify it and celebrate its value. In the exhibition – among sculptures, paintings, neon, lambda prints and installations – the public can find themselves at the same time before the hands of a giant offering diamonds and protecting a chick, lose themselves in the bright colors of informal painting or leaf through a ponderous volume containing the infinite series of billions of figures and letters transcribing the genome of a chicken.
For Vanmechelen sees art as a practice of re-invention of nature, a privileged access door to its secrets and essential requirement to its preservation. And, symmetrically, he calls upon science, almost as if it were a branch of poetry, to somehow magically turn his reveries’ visions into reality.
In July 2019, in the city of Genk, Koen Vanmechelen opened LABIOMISTA, a monumental, multi-faceted project that brings together the vital threads of his work and establishes new opportunities for collaboration and dialogue on some of the most pressing and challenging social issues of contemporary society. The heart of LABIOMISTA is the artist’s newly built 5,300-square-foot studio, designed by acclaimed Swiss architect Mario Botta.
“LABIOMISTA is a homage to the mix of life itself,” says the artist. The project, realized in close partnership with the city of Genk, is the embodiment of Koen Vanmechelen’s art and philosophy.