Bob & Roberta Smith
The Whole World Is An Art School
Feb 03 – Mar 24 2018
von Bartha, Basel
Titled The Whole World is an Art School! , the show transforms the gallery space into an art school and visitors into art students, asking them to confront the motives behind artistic practice and celebrate the often ‘nonsensical purposeless’ of the inspiration-finding process.
New works include artistic propositions and provocations designed as calls to action, instructing visitors to take part in several creative activities within the gallery space; these include making ‘pink on pink’ or ‘grey’ paintings, ‘build your own blob’ and ‘painting with both hands’. With artist tools, media and workspace provided by the gallery, including new benches painted with slogans by the artist, the exhibition is an organic, creative space that develops over time. Bob & Roberta’s own attempts at these challenges, as well as those created by visitors during the exhibition’s run, will be on display at the gallery.
Bob & Roberta Smith’s campaigns are extensions of his artistic practice. Also on display at von Bartha are a variety of brightly-colored text-based slogan works which deal specifically with the role of art in wider society, and brought together here for the first time. A seminal piece This artist is deeply dangerous (2009), details verbatim an experimental art review included in The Guardian newspaper in 2008. Written by the paper’s tennis correspondent – who had swapped places with their art critic for the day – the 9 part painting, measuring over 12 metres high, describes the sports writer’s experience encountering the work of Louise Bourgeois. The piece encapsulates the artist’s interest in broadening the parameters of art.
Also on exhibition at von Bartha are Bob & Roberta Smith’s shorter slogan-based works created on pieces of discarded wood. Working in an improvised way, the artist adapts his handwriting to reflect his message – the ever changing font reflective of the individuality of creation. At once comedic and pointedly political, they depict phrases such as “Make Art Not War” and “All Schools Should Be Art Schools”. Some are painted on found doors, with their upbeat, affirming slogans representing literal entry points; the artist suggests that in the embracing of these ideas, we can find entryways to alternative futures.