Nov. 20, 2008
Contact: Caroline J. Hanna
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass. – On Sunday, Dec. 7, at 7:30 p.m. in Amherst College’s Kirby Theater, the Mead Art Museum will host DRIVE ME HOMEESE BABYBABY, TO ERZLAND (ACHTUNG), a performance by German painter and sculptor Jonathan Meese, the artist currently featured in the Mead’s special installation ALARM de ALARM (PROPAGANDA IN ALASKA): New and Recent Works by Jonathan Meese from the Collection of Adam Lindemann ’83 and Amalia Dayan. Preceding the evening show, at noon the same day, the Mead will host a public conversation with Meese; collector and author Lindemann; and Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought at Amherst, in the museum. Both activities are free and open to all.
Meese’s Kirby performance will feature a 17-foot, double-faced, phallic-bearded head of Wagner, first used in the artist’s 2005 gesamtkunstwerk (an integrated musical, theatrical and visual artwork) Jonathan Meese ist Mutter Parzival (Jonathan Meese is Mother Parsifal), which was performed in the scenery storeroom of Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden opera house during a five-hour performance of Wagner’s Parsifal in the main auditorium. Meese’s Amherst event, likewise, promises to be a night to remember.
Based in Berlin and Hamburg, Meese burst onto the international art scene a decade ago with his installation AHOI DE ANGST at the first Berlin Biennale. The installation featured a labyrinthine student apartment furnished with a sofa and record player and covered in posters inscribed with graffiti-like slogans—a seeming chaos organized with a sure sense of design and redolent with references to celebrity, sex, power and death. Meese built upon this captivating foundation in subsequent projects at international venues including Mass MoCA, the SITE Santa Fe Biennial, the Tate Modern, Centre Georges Pompidou, Hamburger Banhof and P.S. 1.
Born to a British father in Tokyo in 1970 and raised in Germany, Meese studied art at Hamburg’s Hochschule für Bildende Künste (School of Fine Arts), where he filled his abundant studio projects with materials delivered by the brimming plastic bagful and where he began to create stage sets. Both practices continue to impact his expansive, interrelated art, which encompasses oil paintings, drawings, photographs, ceramics, bronzes, installations, videos and performances. At those raucous events (compared by critics to performances by the Dadaists, Joseph Beuys and the Viennese Actionists), Meese variously boxes with himself, climbs his monumental sculptures, eats sausages, salutes, shouts into megaphones and brings his venerable mother on stage. “I think art is a totally open game, and everything is possible, and I should be ready for doing what is necessary,” Says Meese.“Art has its own policy, its own measurement, its own love, its own taste, its own opinion. And that’s why I want to follow it. That’s all.”
Meese’s forms and themes are equally outsized and profuse. His monumental figures remake the ancient Colossus of Rhodes and Great Sphinx of Giza. His lush paint strokes evoke Willem de Kooning and Jean-Michel Basquiat. His opulent, violent, sexually explicit, hallucinatory images recall the films Dr. No, A Clockwork Orange, Zardoz and Caligula. His mythic cast of characters draws upon history and popular culture and includes dictators Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, composer Richard Wagner, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, author and pornographer the Marquis de Sade, Revolutionary Louis de Saint-Just (guillotined during the Jacobin Terror), writer Yukio Mishima (who committed ritual suicide) and actors Klaus Kinski and Scarlett Johansson. The leading role, however, is always claimed by Meese himself.
The Mead’s temporary installation of Meese’s paintings and sculpture offers a glimpse into his expressive, energetic world and provides a context for the artist’s Dec. 7 performance at Amherst—his first at an American college.
The Mead Art Museum is open year-round, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays, and until 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. During the academic term, the museum also remains open until midnight on school nights (Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays). Admission is always free of charge, and the museum is fully accessible. To learn more, please visit the Mead’s Web site, www.amherst.edu/museums/mead, or call 413/542-2335.
Nov. 20, 2008