Michel Majerus

Michel Majerus, 2000

Video

Dimensions Variable


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Artwork
Description

This video work by the Luxembourgish artist Michel Majerus epitomises Majerus’s oeuvre which blurs distinctions between art and pop culture, creating pop art for the digital world.

Originally the work was conceived as a video wall of 4×4 or 5×5 monitors, with the image split between the different screens. The video is a frantic flashing display bursting with bright, synthetic colour. The artist’s name is taken and broken up and then reformed repeatedly on the screen, interspersed with jagged abstract shapes and a shifting purple shadow of the words ‘Michel Majerus’. The words themselves are written in a bright, slanted bubble font that reflects text used in advertising and in the commercial world. The video appears cartoonish and exemplifies Majerus’s practice of sampling. Majerus is inspired by our overexposure to media in the contemporary era, as can be seen too in his paintings. Accordingly this video mimics much of the media we are exposed to, but uses a seemingly random sequence of movement of text and shapes and so fractures our expectations of meaning.

Produced in 2000, Majerus’s video was inspired by VJs in the Berlin clubbing scene at the end of the 90s and the video imitates the frantic rhythms and flashing colours of a nightclub. The artist also went on to produce a series of paintings based on stills from the video.

About
the artist

Michel Majerus (b. 1967) was born in Luxembourg, and rose to fame as a painter in Berlin in the late 1990s. He died in a plane crash in 2002.

The visual repertoire of the late Michel Majerus is notoriously eclectic, characterised by a dynamism and imagination which was prematurely truncated by his death in 2002. A key figure in a new generation of painters, his work pertains to art and its history, to next generation technologies and consumer culture. Majerus’ multi-faceted aesthetic world is one of Murakami’s cheeky Japanese anime, of Kraftwerk’s pulsating German techno and Lichtenstein’s industrial brushstrokes.

Produced while at the Academy of Fine Art in Stuttgart in the early 1990s, the works in question deal with the concerns of a young artist anxious to find originality and innovation. In untitled (maybe you should annihilate) (1993), animated cartoon figures the likes of Disney become the first of a long parade of visual tributes to contemporary culture. For a creative individual who is troubled by the propensity for art to repeat itself, homage would appear an entirely unlikely mode of expressing oneself. But through homage, Majerus boldly admits that there can be no real advancement in art; using others as building blocks in one’s own creativity is the only viable evolution. In O.T. (collaboration Nr.8) (1999) for example, Majerus wishfully inserts his own artistic presence into the famous collaborations of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Using acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, Basquiat’s distinctive skeletal figure is superimposed upon Warhol’s General Electric logo. The power of the work lies entirely on the familiarity of its imagery, with Majerus’ ancestors subsequently being brought to life.

Preferring tangential formatting over rigid, strict composition, he soon realised he need not be confined by four edges. The artist goes about removing the frame and canvas, painting directly onto gallery walls, a technique he developed during a year-long sojourn in Los Angeles between 2000-2001. Initiating an aspiring series of large-format paintings, Majerus discovered in LA a physical environment which closely echoed his own anarchic and symbolic imagination. Stimulated by the city’s concurrent obsession with mass media, the artist’s references to pop culture go into overdrive.

Highly active in curating his own shows, Majerus often took to altering architectural spaces to cater to his own aesthetic desires. His later large scale installations pinpoint even more exasperation with the artistic status quo. In September of 2002 Majerus veiled the entire façade of the Brandenburg Gate with the image of a 1970s council estate of the same name. Titled Sozialpalast, the installation leaves only the Quadriga with its four horses in view. The piece is unique in its overt didacticism, evident of a new political dimension if we view Majerus’ artistic oeuvre as a whole, and perhaps indicative of the direction he was heading creatively. But with an individual as complex and versatile as him, it is difficult to legitimately speculate as to the thematic course of his work - were it not for his untimely passing.


Highly active in curating his own shows, Majerus often took to altering architectural spaces to cater to his own aesthetic desires. His later large scale installations pinpoint even more exasperation with the artistic status quo. In September of 2002 Majerus veiled the entire façade of the Brandenburg Gate with the image of a 1970s council estate of the same name.


Michel Majerus
on Artuner

Part of the
exhibition