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Cultural Embassy

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By Natalie Dixon

Museum Director Katia Baudin once described Dutch artist Frank Bragigand as the ‘last true modernist’. His practice includes a range so diverse it spans from the restoration of furniture to public space interventions and hotel bar design. But if only for the sake of context, ‘painter’ best describes Bragigand’s role in his latest exhibition, Art Language, on show at the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy and Gallery Lumen Travo in Amsterdam.

The Lloyd’s history with Bragigand goes way back, when Artistic Director Suzanne Oxenaar asked him to design the popular Red Bar for the hotel in 2008. Complete with a mirror ball in the centre of the space and mostly standing-only places, the Red Bar demanded a kind of presence from guests. It wasn’t a place to get comfy, it was a place to move and socialise. Similarly, Bragigand’s latest work is a challenge to becoming comfortable in the world, one that, according to Bragigand ‘stopped being understandable at some point’.

Bragigand is quite singular in his ethos of resisting the excess of daily life. Where many see opportunities for breaking down to simply rebuild again, Bragigand sees opportunity for restoration as deeply meaningful. To this end he appropriates garbage, industrial leftovers and other ‘discarded’ objects – as part of a restoration method he finds adaptable to any situation. This ethos of restoration is encapsulated in a body of his work titled ‘Restoration of the Daily Life’ and a political statement about the world ripe for renewal not destruction.

The considered nature of his ‘Restoration of the Daily Life’ has extended into Art Language alongside some healthy and considered doubt for how art is conceptualised. Bragigand refuses grand gestures and statements in favour of phrasing uncomfortable questions about what art or painting is today. His challenge manifests in two parts of Art Language, the first is a series of wall-mounted colourful ‘painterly’ graphics – that is utilizing graphics and words but with a painter’s approach. In the second part of the exhibition Bragigand gives form to certain ‘constellations of knowledge’ around topics such as climate change and religion using white, ephemeral floating spheres – resulting in sculptural information visualizations based on years of research and reading by the artist.

His book, titled The Last Painting Theory is a testament to his career that started in 1985 and is a personal and insightful 300-page monograph showcasing Bragigand’s broad range of work, including essays by six different art authorities. The Last Painting Theory is highly recommended and available through the gallery Lumen Travo.

Art Language can be seen at the Lloyd Hotel and gallery Lumen Travo until the 16 April 2016.