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Hans Emmenegger, Waldinneres, 1938. Öl auf Leinwand, 119,4x70,5 cm. Kunstmuseum Luzern

LUCERNE.- With its new exhibition, Museum of Art Lucerne is continuing the tried and trusted form of the changing exhibition presentation. The combination of works of art in various media and eras under a common theme has become a genuine trademark of the museum. The selected theme links the works together in an open dialogue. Familiar works can be rediscovered in this changing environment, unfamiliar or newly acquired works are being presented to the interested public either in a new way in the context of the collection or for the first time.

Peace and quiet invite reflection about the here and now. This exhibition combines selected contemporary art-works, including recent groups of works by artists such as Ugo Rondinone, Rémy Markowitsch and Berlinde de Bruyckere, with paintings by the great classics of Swiss art, Robert Zünd, Ferdinand Hodler and Hans Emmenegger. Whether they be paintings, sculptures, photographs, videos or installations, all the exhibited works are distinguished by an element of silence, in both form and content they deal with silence and create a meditative effect.

The depiction of human beings in situations of motionlessness assumes great significance in art. Sleep and death are two favourite motifs. Thus, for example, Ferdinand Hodler’s painting ‘The Day’ shows awakening and the beginning day. Berlinde de Bruyckere’s sculpture ‘Robin V.’ falls within the long tradition of depictions of dead people (and the dead Christ). In a glass vitrine lies the body of a hybrid creature, we see the legs and torso of an emaciated man, instead of arms branches grow from his trunk. The figure’s wax skin, even though it looks so incredibly real, calls to mind a mythical being. Might this male variation on Daphne transformed into a tree be brought back to life?

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Berlinde de Bruyckere, Robin V., 2006. Wachs, Harz, Farbe, Glas, Holz, 112 x 76.5 x 235.5 cm. Kunstmuseum Luzern

‘The Day’, Hodler’s main work in the collection of the Museum of Art Lucerne has recently been extensively restored, and is now being shown for the first time again in Lucerne after the retrospectives in Paris and Berne. The painting stands in a long series revealing the artist’s preoccupation with symbolist themes as well as the duality of male and female figures. While in its pendant, ‘The Night’, of 1890 91,
Hodler gave visible form to sleep and nightmares, in his night paintings Ugo Rondinone places the infinite silence of nothingness at the centre. Three monumental paintings show an imaginary the night sky, made on three successive days in September 2008. These are joined by two sculptural moon-face masks from Rondinone’s ‘Moonrise’ series.

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Ferdinand Hodler, Der Tag, um 1900/1910. Öl auf Leinwand, 170 x 368 cm. Kunstmuseum Luzern, Depositum der Bernhard Eglin-Stift

But we also encounter silence in the depiction of the deserted landscape. It is no coincidence that at the end of the 19th century Robert Zünd’s paintings capture a world that blanks out both noise and the speed of an increasingly technologised world. In formal terms Zünd is a realist, in terms of content an idealist. His art shows us today how far removed we are from nature; his forest paintings recall moments of stillness that are now a rarity.

Christoph Rütimann’s 28-meter long drawing, which hangs from the ceiling as a space within the space, is comparable to a gigantic musical score. The lines running over several meters are like melodies, soundmovements, arpeggios and staccatoes. We are in a sound-space, we ‘see’ notes – and hear nothing. The drawing produced in 1990 for the large hall of the old Kunsthaus is being shown here for the first time in the new Museum of Art.

Finally, the photographic works provide a particular take on the subject of silence. Large groups of works by James Welling, Beat Streuli and Rémy Markowitsch are being shown. More than any other medium, photography is capable of freezing even the most dramatic scenes into a moment of silence and stasis. The idea of capturing the moment so that the image doesn’t look boring, but resembles a snapshot that prompts reflection on the before and after, has always been a challenge for artists and remains one of the great fascinations of visual art. Likewise, as they stroll around the exhibition, visitors will find themselves engaging in a debate with the here and now.

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Beat Streuli, New York 91/93, 1993. Farbfotografie, Aufl./Ed. 3/25, 50,8 x 60,8 cm. Kunstmuseum Luzern

With works by
Robert Zünd (1827–1909), Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918), Hans Emmenegger (1866–1940), Aldo Walker (1938–2000) Heinz Brand (*1944) Richard Long (*1945), James Welling (*1951), Christoph Rütimann (*1955), Rémy Markowitsch (*1957), Jörg Niederberger (*1957), Beat Streuli (*1957), Martin Walde (*1957), Rosemary Laing (*1959), Patrick Rohner (*1959), Adrian Schiess (*1959), Ugo Rondinone (*1962), Berlinde de Bruyckere (*1964), USA United Swiss Artists (Martin Frei, Rebecca Schmid, Christoph Draeger, Urs Lehmann, *1966/*1968/*1965/*1966), Smith/Stewart (*1968/*1961)