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The World of Madelon Vriesendorp: Paintings/Postcards/Objects/Games

The World of Madelon Vriesendorp: Paintings/Postcards/Objects/Games is an exhibition and book that will, for the first time ever, bring together the Dutch artist’s wildly diverse practices from the past thirty-five years, including painting, drawing, collecting, recycling, sculpture and psychological game devising as well as the serious business of collecting what Walter Benjamin once called ‘the trash of history’. According to Hans Ulrich Obrist, Madelon Vriesendorp is an ‘almost unknown artist genius’. This exhibition aims to redress this and situate her in her rightful place within contemporary culture.


Vriesendorp was one of the founding members of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (together with Rem Koolhaas and Elia and Zoe Zenghelis) and a resident teacher at the AA for over a decade. Her painting Flagrant Délit featured on the cover of Koolhaas’ book Delirious New York (1978). Showing the Chrysler and Empire State buildings caught red-handed, in post-coital embrace, by the Rockefeller Center, it constitutes one of the most beguiling attempts to depict the unconscious double-life of Modern architecture. However, there is a significant body of work preceding and following this celebrated period that has remained largely unseen by the public.


The AA Gallery installation includes paintings and drawings dating from 1967 to today; two collections of postcards (approx. eight thousand in total) collected by Vriesendorp and Koolhaas in upstate New York during the 1970s, which form an accidental archaeology of the USA; and a rarely seen 1980 animation, Flagrant Délit, co-authored with Teri Wehn-Damisch, which tells the torrid tale of Manhattan’s most infamous skyscrapers as an anthropomorphic surrealist melodrama. The Front Members’ Room will house Vriesendorp’s astounding ‘Archive’ of miniature objects, models and figurines (numbering in the thousands), which includes an Indian Minnie Mouse in regional dress fraternising with a winged Father Christmas. A special installation is also on show – a life-sized incarnation of the self-penned psychological diagnosis kit, ‘The Mind Game’.


The curators, AACP director Shumon Basar and architect/theorist Stephan Trüby, gained unique access to Vriesendorp’s extraordinary studio/archive in North London, a private cosmology of found and invented symbols and stories and the symbolic starting point and repository for ‘The World’ of Vriesendorp. The accompanying AA publication, designed by Kasia Korczak, includes an introduction by critic and collaborator Charles Jencks, conversations between Vriesendorp and historian Beatriz Colomina and cult novelist Douglas Coupland, a rumination by Hubert Damisch on Freud’s London house and Vriesendorp’s studio close by, Fenna Haakma Wagenaar on the ‘productivity of distraction’, a photo-essay by Charlie Koolhaas on her mother’s house/studio, and Rem Koolhaas in a frank interview on origins, ambition and privacy, along with other texts on ‘Bad Paintings’, ‘Smallness’ and the compulsion to ‘collect people’.

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