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Spring Online Edition, May 14 - 28, 2021

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mfc-michèle didier

+33 1 71 27 34 41

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mfc-michèle didier is an independent publisher established in 1987 in Brussels, who produces and publishes original works by contemporary artists, creating an extensive series of works, such as artist's books, prints, installations, multiples, etc.

Since 2011, mfc-michèle didier gallery, located 66 rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth in Paris, gives the chance to present the publisher's productions and is a place of reflection on the artistic discipline of the artist's book. At the same time, it gives the opportunity to show the importance of ephemera and published, multiplied works in contemporary art.

Image:

Alex Hanimann, 04-04-1968-0601 [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr._1] (detail)

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To illustrate our IFPDA booth, dedicated to the artist Alex Hanimann, I decided to use the beautiful text by Stephan Kunz, written in preface to the book "Alex Hanimann. Textarbeiten".

For our booth I have selected three different but complementary types of works by the artist, which represent the essence of Alex Hanimann's work.

Michèle Didier

«Putting language before your eyes»

«Ein Löffel Tee in einem Fass voll Honig» [A spoonful of tea in a barrel of honey] - with the title of his first museum exhibition (Kunstverein St.Gallen, 1988) and his first monographic publication, Alex Hanimann imprinted himself on the consciousness of a public interested in art. A large number of drawings and books were shown, which were only occasionally accompanied by linguistic elements. All the more striking was the title of the book, which is not as enigmatically meaningful as the drawings, but is persistently irritating because of its ambivalence. This reveals an artistic strategy on which Hanimann‘s later text works are based.
Certainly, the interest in pictorial signs as well as the open play with meanings and shifts in meaning form an essential basis for a growing affinity with language: at the end of the 1980s, multi-form typeface-image ensembles are created and inscriptions appear more and more frequently in the drawings. The interplay of text and image increasingly determines his artistic work and proves to be absolutely central in the extensive exhibition of drawings at the Kunstmuseum Solothurn (subsequent exhibitions in Düren and Münster, 2000-2002).

In the exhibition catalogue of the Marburger Kunstverein from 1991, there is surprisingly a text work with large hand-painted black letters: „Energiespender arbeitet chaotisch“. Formally, this typeface breaks completely out of the series of rather fine linear drawings and appears exceedingly striking, corresponding to the headline-like formulation of the text. But the readability is broken several times and finally one also stumbles over the apparent clarity of the statement. Ostensibly, there is an uncontrolled flow of energy. In the same year, the artist‘s book „Die Mitte des Denkens. Die Ränder der Zeit“ (The Margins of Time) appears as a pure text book in which free typography is the programme. Memories of Dadaist word art or Fluxus manifestos resonate in it just as much as political propaganda and action posters. At times, the words emblazoned in red on a yellow background leave nothing to be desired in terms of clarity: „YES/NO“, „POWER BEFORE RIGHT“, „VERY NEAR“. However, the pages in which Alex Hanimann plays with typographic design and opens up new spaces of meaning by means of formal (pictorial) elements predominate. Here, someone is trying to appropriate language as a material and to grasp familiar concepts in a new way.

In contrast, the first large text mural, which Alex Hanimann realised in 1992 as part of a solo exhibition at the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, seems simply impressive. The focus of this exhibition was on extensive picture cycles (painting) in which the relationship between human-animal/animal-human had priority. At the time, only the initiated could decipher the sequences of letters that Alex Hanimann placed on a wall between paintings of horses: HXECKFAMB. Those who did not know that these were the track markings in dressage were faced with a riddle, and even those who knew about it were in need of explanation because it is not known who set the markings and why exactly this was chosen. Strangely enough, entire generations of riders nevertheless follow this questionable standard. These rules are not an end in themselves, but define framework conditions in which horse and rider move in mutual agreement. So what for some is an expression of a well-functioning system appears to others as a total refusal.

Since the early 1990s, the interest in language has become increasingly important in the work of Alex Hanimann. When the catalogue of the Kunstmuseum Solothurn states that „drawing (is) at the centre of Alex Hanimann‘s multifaceted oeuvre“, this must be put into perspective from today‘s standpoint and with regard to the text works presented here. Through the medium of language, Hanimann‘s artistic oeuvre has not only experienced a significant expansion, but has become richer in a way that stands on an equal footing with drawing and painting. This is also expressed quantitatively: the small-format sheets with words, sentences, lists or numbers are countless; and the public manifestations are numerous: temporary in exhibitions and permanent in connection with architecture (Kunst am Bau). It is essential to see both together and not to distinguish between design and execution: anyone who gets involved with Alex Hanimann‘s text works finds that language manifests itself anew here again and again and that precisely therein lies an essential potential of these works: Alex Hanimann‘s strength is that he brings language before our eyes. A mural is thus merely another form of manifestation of language than a small-format note. It goes without saying that this says nothing about the meaning, truthfulness or binding nature of the text, especially since Alex Hanimann breaks with every linguistic convention and seeks contradictions.

The various text works are grouped here into eleven chapters. The artist thus proposes a reading that reflects the optical and phonetic qualities of language as well as the semantic ones, and he distinguishes between different forms of communication: observations, questions or instructions stand next to lists, montages and superimpositions, but the sound, tone and rhythm of the individual words are also of interest here. Language is our most conditioned means of communication and Alex Hanimann challenges its self-evidence with all means possible. The intelligent and always very sensual play with language never conceals the fact that this art is based on an existential experience and that the artist develops an ideology-critical impetus from it: if language shapes our view of reality, only a permanent questioning of our language habits can change our understanding of reality and inspire our search for knowledge.

«Etwas zweimal oder immer wieder sagen» [Saying something twice or again and again]. Emphasis or repetition? Confirmation or differentiation? Alex Hanimann pro- vides ambivalence. His works „are not an expression of self-assured knowledge, but of self-critical searching“ (Thomas Onken). Accordingly, his artistic work is like that of a researcher. His field of investigation is language and the possibilities of gaining knowledge contained therein. An example of this is a list of things that Alex Hanimann has created and specified the undefined thing x-fold in an associative series: „Meaningful things / unspeakable things / things that we see / ... / things we revere / things that are a burden to us / things that give us relief“ (cf. p. 214/215). This list appears here twice in parallel, one next to the other, once in the order in which Alex Hanimann wrote it down, and once in alphabetical order. A third thing emerges between two things. Above the things, thinking is set in motion and Alex Hanimann passes the ball to us, so that the world remains in flux.

Stephan Kunz

The text was published as a preface in the book
«Alex Hanimann. Textarbeiten»
[Textual work], ed. Stephan Kunz.
With essays by various authors (german only). Appeared in the series Binding Sélection d‘Artistes. Aargauer Kunsthaus Aarau / Verlag für moderne Kunst, Wien

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mfc-michèle didier, Alex Hanimann

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Love]

1980-2000

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

.

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Long]

1980-2000

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Luck]

1980-2000

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

1964 [Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster]

2017

229 x 186 cm

Indian ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$30,000

Alex Hanimann in his studio (photo credit Studio Hanimann)

Alex Hanimann

121960–10–21 [Kennedy Nixon 4th debate, New York City]

2018

250 x 392 cm

Indian ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$39,000

Exhibition view at FRAC Grand Large, France (photo credit Marc Dommage)

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Love]

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Long]

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

Untitled [Luck]

116 x 94 cm

Black ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$7,300

Alex Hanimann

1964 [Bob Dylan and Joan Baez flanking a Seymour Chwast poster]

229 x 186 cm

Indian ink on paper

Edition 1 of 1 + 1 Artist's proof

$30,000