“We have also been experiencing some uneasy times lately, but aware of the irrelevance of all these things, we attempt to lose ourselves in our work and in the joy of life.” —Letter by H.N. Werkman , 19 November 1924
“Museums are no place for artists who are questioning social roles.” —Chauncey Hare, Introduction to This Was Corporate America, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1984
The inaugural exhibition at P!, Process 01: Joy, opens in September 2012. Featuring works by Chauncey Hare, Christine Hill, and Karel Martens, the exhibition focuses on topics that periodically appear, disappear, and reappear in and out of contemporary discourse: labor, alienation, and the love of work. Rather than attempting to tackle these themes head on, the exhibition presents three wildly disparate positions that together suggest a loose and unstable thesis. The materials on view span a range of documentary, anthropological, and performative approaches to questions of labor and, at the same time, enact self-reflexive, parallel spaces of production and “off-time.”
Self-described as a “working person who has made photographs for a short period of his life,” Chauncey Hare is one of the most incisive yet elusive figures in American social photography. Beginning work as an engineer at Chevron in the San Francisco Bay Area inthe 1950s, Hare turned to photography as a means of escape from his experience of the oppression and competitiveness of corporate life. By the late 1960s, he had embarked upon a nearly two-decade project of photographing Americans in their homes and workplaces. Despite apparent success and support—including three Guggenheim grants and solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston—Hare raged against these same institutions for neutralizing the critical social commentary embedded in his work, and for what he perceived as the artworld’s growing collusion with corporate interests. Eventually withdrawing from art entirely in the mid-1980s, Hare retrained as an occupational therapist and has since collaborated with his partner, Judith Wyatt, to more effectively assist Americans suffering from “work abuse.” Presented at P! are multiple copies of Hare’s published books as well as archival and reproduced materials and photographs. Every day at 6pm, as if at the punching of a time clock, the pages of the books on view will be turned to reveal new configurations of images and texts that reflect on the shifting pressures of life and work.
You could call Christine Hill a “total entrepreneur.” Since the early 1990s, Hill’s ongoing artistic investigation into diverse professional models has led her to adopt varied roles—shopkeeper, tour guide, talk show host, writer, and rock singer, to name but a few—in apractice that collapses research and retail with collecting, exhibition-making, and production. “Volksboutique” (a play on the East German term for “people-owned companies”) is Hill’s all-encompassing moniker for her many activities. Starting as a second-hand-clothing-store-cum-social-sculpture in Berlin and later presented at Documenta X in 1997, Volksboutique now stages increasingly ambitious forays into public and institutional spaces, including shows such as “Hotel Volksboutique” (Galerie für zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig, 2011); “Do It Yourself Bauhaus” (Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, 2009); and “The Volksboutique Armory Apothecary” (solo presentation with Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, 2009 Armory Show). For the duration of Process 01: Joy, Hill will transform P! into a “remote office”: a hub from which to collect research on local small businesses that extends the activities of “The Volksboutique Small Business” in Berlin. Eclectic programming, including lectures by business owners, urban researchers, gentrification experts, and a closing event on 3 November 2012 with Hill herself in attendance, will initiate an ongoing dialogue between P! and its immediate local context.
When Karel Martens began studying art in Holland in the late 1950s, “graphic design” did not even exist as its own course of study. Today he is widely recognized as one of the most important practitioners of that very discipline, with an esteemed client list that includes major publishers, architects, and institutions. His accolades include the H.N. Werkman Prize (1993) for the design of the architectural journal Oase, the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Art (1996), the Gold Medal at the Leipzig Book Fair (1998), and numerous other distinctions. Martens’ unwavering experimentation with printing processes, graphic form, and the construction of typographic meaning over the past half century has indelibly imprinted a younger generation of designers, as has his teaching at the Yale School of Art, Jan van Eyck Academie, and co-founding of the Werkplaats Typografie in 1997. Yet concurrent to his illustrious portfolio of commissioned work, Martens has laboriously developed an oeuvre of seminal monoprints, which have been widely published yet rarely exhibited. Created on a small letterpress, the prints often recycle pre-printed sheets and found materials including castaway collection cards from museums and raw packing material. Neither commissioned design objects nor autonomous artworks, Martens’ letterpress experiments exist as unique fragments of an ongoing visual process. At P!, a large selection of Martens’ monoprints, including rare works from the 1950s and 60s, are presented in an associative manner that mirrors the open-ended and speculative method of their production. Martens has also created the logo for P!, the first in a series that will change with every exhibition.
1. In the two decades preceding his tragic death at the hands of the Gestapo, Dutch designer and printmaker H.N. Werkman (1882–1945), created an astonishing body of radical typographic publications and prints. With the collapse of his printing company in 1923, due in large part to German inflation and economic mismanagement, Werkman turned his focus to the things he loved most: experimental publishing and printing “druksels”—abstract monoprints created using the apparatus of the printing press as a painter might use paint.