Review

“What may ultimate reality be?”

07.06.2020 |

Ágnes Dénes, Absolutes & Intermediates, 1970, ink on custom printed graph paper, 21.59 × 27.94 cm, Courtesy Ágnes Dénes and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

“Until this technology is invented, the project cannot proceed.”1 This statement by Ágnes Dénes (b. 1931) sums up this visionary artist’s, at the vanguard of art but also of innovations in science and technology.

“What may ultimate reality be?” - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Exhibition view: Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, The Shed, New York, 9 October  2019 – 22 March 2020, Courtesy The Shed, © Photo: Dan Bradica

The exhibition Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates presents more than 150 works from the fifty years of her career. The retrospective, the first on such a scale in New York City, where she produced one of her best-known projects, Wheatfield – A Confrontation (1982), was curated by Emma Enderby at The Shed, New York.

“What may ultimate reality be?” - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Exhibition view: Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, The Shed, New York, 9 October  2019 – 22 March 2020, Courtesy The Shed, © Photo: Dan Bradica

An artist of complexity and an insatiable researcher, Á. Dénes is a mathematician, architect, urban planner and philosopher. This exhibition reflects the idea of art as a system for exploring the universe and making knowledge visible. Á. Dénes is convinced that art is perhaps the only specialization in the modern world capable of embracing all others in order to better grasp the multidimensionality of the issues of our time.

“What may ultimate reality be?” - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Ágnes Dénes, Tree Mountain –A Living Time Capsule—11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years, 1992-1996, 1992-2013, chromogenic print, 91.44 × 91.44 cm, Courtesy Ágnes Dénes and Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

Clearly committed, when asked about the role of the artist in the creation of her work Tree Mountain – A Living Time Capsule – 11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years (1992-1996), Á. Dénes responded that she has a duty to humanity “to share [her] vision … and let the world see through [her] eyes”.2 To this, she added that it is not enough to “get out of [her] studio and see the world” in order to act on it.3 As a pioneer of ecological art, Á. Dénes differs from many land art artists who, in the 1960s, went outside because “they needed more space than their studios but they had nothing to do with environmental concerns about which they couldn’t care less”.4 Conversely, each of her works is an attempt to provide a pragmatic response to a man-made problem, giving art functionality out of necessity. If many of her projects have not seen the light of day, it is above all because, as the curator reminds us, she is a woman and “she was and is ahead of her time, both in terms of what was expected and accepted of women artists but also simply in her vision”.5

“What may ultimate reality be?” - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Ágnes Dénes, RiceTreeBurial, 1977-1979, gelatin silver prints, Artpark, Lewiston, New York, Courtesy Ágnes Dénes and Leslie Tonkonow. Artworks + Projects

An almost visual philosophy showing constancy and perseverance throughout her career, Á. Dénes’s work reveals a deep faith in humanity and the desire to see it succeed despite its repeated failures and the madness that leads to its current self-destruction. With each of her works, she engages the public in both existential reflection and empowerment through her time capsules in which she captures the viewer’s impressions of her work but also their view of the world around them for future generations.

“What may ultimate reality be?” - AWARE Artistes femmes / women artists

Exhibition view: Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, The Shed, New York, 9 October  2019 – 22 March 2020, Courtesy The Shed, © Photo: Dan Bradica

In the face of an environmental crisis that is causing deep paralysis and aggravated by this same inertia, Ágnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates is a promise of an aesthetic experience that could tend towards the setting in motion of the acts and consciences of a “concerned” public.

 

The title “What may ultimate reality be?” is the last question addressed by Ágnes Dénes to the public in a questionnaire in the exhibition, whose answers she collects in what she calls a time capsule to be opened in 3020.

 

Ágnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, from 9 October 2019 to 22 March 2020, The Shed, New York, United States

Translated from the French by Katia Porro.

1
Ágnes Dénes, in Hartz, Agnes Denes, p. 142, cited by Emma Enderby, “A Future Yet to Be Realized”, in Agnes Denes: Absolutes and Intermediates, exh. cat., The Shed, New York (October 2019-March 2020), New York, The Shed, 2019, p. 44.

2
In Tree Mountain – A Living Time Capsule – 11,000 Trees, 11,000 People, 400 Years, 1996, digitised version, 19 min 44 sec, courtesy of the artist.

3
Ibid.

4
Hans Ulrich Obrist and Ágnes Denes, “Holding the Universe in the Palm of Your Hand”, in Absolute and Intermediates, p. 21.

5
Enderby, “A Future Yet to Be Realized”, p. 44.

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How to cite this article:
Anaïs Roesch, "“What may ultimate reality be?”." In Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions magazine, . URL : https://awarewomenartists.com/en/magazine/what-may-ultimate-reality-be/. Accessed 13 July 2020

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