Kunsthalle Helsinki opens its autumn season with everyone gets lighter, the Finnish solo debut of internationally acclaimed Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964). The exhibition is organized in conjunction with the Helsinki Festival.
Ugo Rondinone works across a wide range of contemporary mediums including sculpture, painting, audio, video and photography. He combines conceptualism with elements of Pop Art, reflecting on everyday events that often convey a contemplative, existential dimension. Through seemingly mundane elements, he delves into profound conceptual depths of the psyche and emotion. He uses rainbows and other universal symbols in the belief that art should accessible to everyone regardless of their age or background.
The centrepiece of the exuberantly coloured exhibition is vocabulary of solitude from 2014, a meditative installation of sculpted clowns in passive poses. The installation expresses the artist’s characteristic straddling between joy and sorrow: clowns are traditionally meant to be funny and entertaining, but in Rondinone’s exhibition, they are sombre and thoughtful, almost melancholy. The hyper-realistic clowns are of different genders and ethnic backgrounds. Collectively, they form a ‘day in the life’ portrait of a single confined person narrated through 45 different mundane activities: be. breathe. sleep. dream. wake. rise. sit. hear. look. think. stand. walk. pee. shower. dress. drink. fart. shit. read. laugh. cook. smell. taste. eat. clean. write. daydream. remember. cry. nap. touch. feel. moan. enjoy. float. love. hope. wish. sing. dance. fall. curse. yawn. undress. lie.
Separately, the oversized clown shoes exude a sense of calm or even loneliness. Carrying titles such as calm, still, silence and no one’s voice,all from 2006, they seem to quietly wait for the clown’s next performance to begin.
It is impossible to see out of the colourful windows hanging on the walls. Painted in bright colours, the hollow from 2014 and the pure from 2017 emphasize the enclosed nature of the exhibition space, forcing viewers to turn their gaze back on the gallery or themselves. Rondinone attempts to escape the white cube of the gallery, with windows serving as symbols of longing and self-reflection.
Rondinone’s iconic rainbows assume a variety of forms in the Kunsthalle exhibition. love invents us from 1999 transforms the atmosphere of the sculpture gallery with colourful decals on the tall windows, which filter incoming light in the myriad shades of the rainbow.
The glowing shades of the rainbow paintings vierzehnterseptemberzweitausendundfünfzehn from 2015 and achtundzwanzigsterjunizweitausendundsechzehn from 2016, create a sense of depth guiding the viewer out of the exhibition space through a rainbow shaped tunnel.
A rainbow-coloured textual sculpture announcing the title of the exhibition, everyone gets lighter from 2004 is fixed to the façade of the building. Many of Rondinone’s slogan-like sculptures reiterate everyday sayings or quotes from pop music or poems. The sculptures impart a message of hope, like aphorisms celebrating the value of life and love.
One of the works in the exhibition is a space lined floor to ceiling with children’s drawings of rainbows. Over a thousand Finnish schoolchildren contributed to the work, which forms part of the your age and my age and the age of the rainbow project launched in 2014, which has unfolded as part of exhibitions in various museums including the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai.
Ugo Rondinone was born in Brunnen, Switzerland and currently lives and works in New York. He has been the subject of recent solo exhibitions at institutions including: Bass Museum of Art, Miami; Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati; Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow; Place Vendôme, Paris; MACRO and Mercati di Traiano, Rome; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Museum Anahuacalli, Mexico City; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; Museum of Cycladic Art, Athens; Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Vienna; and Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium. In 2016, Rondinone’s large-scale public work seven magic mountains opened outside Las Vegas, co-produced by the Art Production Fund and Nevada Museum of Art. In 2017, Rondinone curated a city-wide exhibition, Ugo Rondinone: I ♥John Giorno, which honored the artist’s life partner in thirteen venues throughout Manhattan.