Kunsthalle Fridericianum Presents Danh Vo JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI

The Kunsthalle Fridericianum presents Danh Vo JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI an exhibition on view until 31 December 2011.

With JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI, Danh Vo shifts the focus of his artistic investigations to the concepts of freedom, revolution and utopia. The title designates 4 July 1776, the date of the signing of the US Declaration of Independence and the writing in Roman numerals is taken from the tablet that the figure of New York’s Statue of Liberty is holding in her left hand. Currently, Danh Vo is in the process of producing a full-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty in China—31 tons of embossed copper. In JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI the already completed 11 tons are shown, supplemented by 20 tons of plain copper sheets. The monumentality of the statue is immediately qualified though: the sculpture is dissected into its individual parts and thus abstracted. In his recreation, Vo concentrates on reproducing the thin copper skin (the iron scaffolding supporting the figure is missing), which gives WE THE PEOPLE a special fragility. The broken icon, the destroyed allegorical figure of Libertas, forms a strong counterpoint to the massive materiality.

Danh Vo, “WE THE PEOPLE” (detail), 2011. Courtesy of Galerie Chantal Crousel. Photo by Nils Klinger.

The confrontation with physical mass in the guise of a huge ‘park’ of copper sculptures on the upper floor contrasts with a spatial openness on the ground floor, where Danh Vo steers attention to a striking found piece: the original typewriter on which Theodore Kaczynski wrote the infamous Unabomber’s Manifesto. The Smith Corona is placed next to the New York Times, dated 7 January 1945, with the announcement of Barbara Pierce’s wedding with George Bush. Delicately placed on a pedestal incorporating two tons of copper, which is part of WE THE PEOPLE, Vo creates a surprising yet enigmatic network of relationships between seemingly very different American icons.

Exclusively accompanying JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI, an edition under the title Season’s Greetings by Danh Vo is being brought out which is closely tied to the exhibition. In this edition consisting of 24 copies, the artist compiled found objects, each of which refers to a work in the Kassel exhibition. The hand-made wooden boxes each contain a first-edition copy of the book Harvard and the Unabomber – The Education of an American Terrorist, a T-shirt from the Statue of Liberty souvenir shop in New York, a cup from the George Bush Library and Museum, with a quote by Barbara Bush printed on it, as well as an index card on which the title of the show was typed on Kaczynski’s typewriter. The edition can be obtained from the museum shop.

JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI is the last exhibition in the Kunsthalle Fridericianum before the building is given over to dOCUMENTA (13). As of 2013, Kunsthalle Fridericianum will continue its programme under Rein Wolfs’ artistic direction. As Wolfs puts it in his column: “Danh Vo’s exhibition marks a programmatic closing statement of a first series of solo shows all tackling the contemporary and at the same time universal human condition. Christoph Büchel, Pawel Althamer, Thomas Zipp, Klara Lidén, Latifa Echakhch, Navid Nuur, Matias Faldbakken, Teresa Margolles, Andro Wekua and many others in a way ‘performed’ the oldest public museum building on the European mainland. Vo’s preoccupation with freedom, revolution, utopia and terrorism functions like a negotiation with some of the fundamental aspects of this historical site and also places Kassel at the centre of global politics.”

The exhibition JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI by Danh Vo is supported by Hessische Kulturstiftung, MVS-Metallvertriebs- und Service GmbH and Danish Arts Council.

Kunsthalle Fridericianum
Friedrichsplatz 18
Kassel, Germany

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