Few artists of his generation did more to shape Switzerland’s cultural self-image than the painter Ferdinand Hodler (1853 Bern – 1918 Geneva). Although the concept of the ‘national artist’ is now considered obsolete, it has embedded itself firmly in our collective consciousness. Hodler’s works are routinely associated with old-established values such as rootedness (the ‘woodcutter idyll’) and national sovereignty. This ignores the original intention of the artist, who placed himself very much within the progressivism of the Secessionists.
The exhibition puts these categorizations into perspective and sheds a nuanced light on Hodler’s formal, cultural and political impact. A selection of contemporary artists enter into a critical, analytical dialogue with this fascinating authority figure, underscoring the enduring relevance and multifaceted nature of his art.
The exhibition, jointly conceived with the artists Sabian Baumann, Ishita Chakraborty and RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co), explores four thematic areas: nature / landscapes; corporealities; belonging; and enigma / transcendence. It draws on the Kunsthaus Zürich’s extensive holdings of works by Hodler. The exhibition is designed in collaboration with artist Nicolas Party.
With contributions by, among others, Asim Abdulaziz, Laura Aguilar, Caroline Bachmann, Mel Baggs, Sabian Baumann, Denise Bertschi, Ishita Chakraborty, Andriu Deplazes, María Elena González, Christina Hemauer & Roman Keller, David Hockney, Sasha Huber, Franticˇek Klossner, Nils Amadeus Lange, André M’Bon, Nicolas Party, RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co), Ugo Rondinone, Selma Selman, Susan Schuppli, Milva Stutz, Andro Wekua and Latefa Wiersch.
Ill.: Ferdinand Hodler, Truth, 1903, Kunsthaus Zürich, permanent loan from the City of Zurich, 1930