Private View: Saturday, 28 February 6:30PM - 8:30PM

Exhibition Run: 1 March - 29 March 2009

Curated by Bart van der Heide

Throughout March 2009, Cubitt Gallery welcomes a specially commissioned installation by  Dutch artist Willem de Rooij (b. 1969), entitled ‘Birds’. De Rooij’s thoughtful research on the cultural resonance of artifacts and the afterlife of visual mass-distribution have lead to successful solo projects and collaborations (as part of artist-duo de Rijke / de Rooij), along with acclaimed exhibitions at international institutions, such as Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, K21 Düsseldorf and MAMBo museum for Modern Art, Bologna. De Rooij is a professor at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main and at De Ateliers in Amsterdam.
The installation ‘Birds’ at Cubitt marks the third leg of a triptych of temporary installations, constructed by De Rooij over a period of two years at galleries in Paris (Chantal Crousel, ‘The Floating Feather’, 2006) and Cologne (Gallerie Buchholz, ‘Birds in a Park’, 2007). Each of these three projects is inspired by another work of 17th century Dutch painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695). In these recent productions of De Rooij, d’Hondecoeter’s paintings_were the starting point of different spatial compositions that each combine a variety of contemporary artistic practices and historical artifacts, resulting in a compelling series of temporal groupings that express a personal account on the distribution of the cultural identity and memory, collecting and display.

D’Hondecoeter’s œuvre consists almost entirely out of portrayals of birds and the painting that initiated de Rooij’s Cubitt installation is no exception. Despite originally being acquired by the Crocker Art Collection (Sacramento, USA) as a painting by d’Hondecoeter’s hand, Birds (n.d.) is currently attributed to one of his contemporaries. This paintings composition is rather unusual: not only does it depict a curious group of birds that are both alive and dead, these same birds look as if they are cut and pasted onto an arbitrary rural setting. The plumage of all the birds seems to reflect an unnatural lighting with equal intensity, illustrating the feathers in extreme detail. Compared to their surroundings, which are painted with much less inspiration, lacking convincing depth and shadow, ‘Birds’ therefore reflects two different entities – context and subject – each alienating the other.

Interpreting ‘Birds’ as a collage ‘avant la lettre’, aligns the painting to the conceptual discourse of Appropriation Art. De Rooij takes up this analogy and continues to extend it into the third dimension. The Cubitt installation ‘Birds’ is equally comparable to a visual assemblage, but instead of using a flat surface composition De Rooij appropriates the temporary exhibition as his artistic means of negotiation. A diverse anthology of artifacts that De Rooij has collected over the last year are combined with the abstract  paintings of Dutch artist Vincent Vulsma (b. 1982). Thus ‘Birds’ joins a multifaceted collection of artworks, high street fashion and printed matter. All these items however have one vital element in common: they operate in a context that is not their own, hence illustrating the line of reasoning of one single artist. In so doing, Willem de Rooij succeeds in showing us a collage that is time based, highly seductive and remaining hauntingly active in one’s mind after visiting.

Vincent Vulsma’s first solo exhibition in Germany will take place in July 2009 at Galerie Cinzia Friedlaender in Berlin.

‘Birds’ is generously supported by Arts Council England, The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Mondriaan Foundation.