‘White Noise,’ the first Los Angeles solo exhibition by Mexican-German artist Stefan Brüggemann, debuts works created over the past two years. Together the paintings, installation and neon works on view address ways in which information and misinformation saturate our consciousness and shape our approach to the world in which we live today. Brüggemann’s art layers texts in a distinctive type of controlled chaos, opening a space between legibility and abstraction that introduces a healthy degree of doubt and questioning to the process of parsing truth.
Made at the end of August especially for the exhibition, ‘Headlines and Last Lines in the Movies (Writer’s Strike)’ takes on particular poignancy at the time of the Writers Guild of America Strike ongoing since May 2023. The multi-colored spray paint on silver leafed canvas work is the latest in a series started in 2010 foregrounding headlines taken from the news of the week. In the same room, the artist’s 2021 series ERODED PAINTING layers spray painted climate change headlines atop a central poem on wall-mounted marble panels. Brüggemann sees the natural phenomena of sedimentation and erosion as essential metaphors for our semiotic environment.
Presented back-to-back on an open metal grid and suspended in midair, the glowing red, white and blue text of ‘TRUTH/LIE’ (2023) acts as a veritable billboard that becomes difficult for the viewer to read. The work’s deliberate illegibility is further achieved by the addition of sound via a recording of Jonathen Debin ominously intoning a text by Mexican writer Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez. In the same room, five paintings from Brüggemann’s recent series The Final Mess (Headlines/Transition Paintings) achieve a similarly dense and layered textual abstraction. The full series of eight spray painted works on gold leaf-coated canvas were completed, one per day, in eight days leading to the 2021 presidential inauguration in Washington D.C.
The final room of the exhibition brings together nine recent works from two series: HI SPEED CONTRAST PAINTINGS and TO BE POLITICAL IT HAS TO LOOK NICE. Painted in 2022 over an earlier 2018 example from the HI SPEED CONTRAST series, layers of gold text and spray paint Brüggemann’s vocabulary. Playing with the aesthetics of digitization, the works in this space combine digital printing with the hand-painted gestures, further blurring the lines between human agency and machined erasure.
Brüggemann plays with doubt in ‘Exit Door (In Gold We Trust)’, a work that continues his 2017 series, here substituting gold leaf for the stainless steel of earlier pieces in the series. This luminous gold finish simultaneously references the spiritual and economic authority of ancient art and artefacts, and the alluring glitter of luxury goods. Finally, TO BE POLITICAL IT HAS TO LOOK NICE (2023) is the latest in Brüggemann’s series of Text Pieces, which date back to 1997 and underline his longstanding interest in language. Rendered in Arial Black typeface in gold leaf, the provocative statement of the title invites viewers to interpret its meaning and contemplate its implications. Inherent in the words is an understanding that everything is political, even appearance.
In celebration of Stefan Brüggemann’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles this fall, the Education Lab ‘Now or Never’ will host a series of creative workshops throughout the duration of the exhibition to explore the themes of Brüggemann’s work. Visitors will have access to films and a reading area with books about Brüggemann’s approach to artmaking that reflects on the paradoxes of contemporary society using language, cultural identity, and carefully chosen materials.
The artist has inaugurated the first iteration of RE-LOGO, a t-shirt project featuring the artist’s iconic Text Piece ‘TO BE POLITICAL IT HAS TO LOOK NICE.’ By screen-printing one of his distinctive Text Pieces on top of branded locally sourced vintage t-shirts, Brüggemann has created a kind of merchandise that disturbs popular notions of art and asks: What is the nature of art in the era of mass-production?
T-shirts are on sale online and in-person at the Downtown LA gallery.
Spanning—and sometimes combining—sculpture, video, painting, and drawing, Stefan Brüggemann’s work deploys text in conceptual installations rich with acerbic social critique and a post pop aesthetic. Born in Mexico City and working between Mexico, London and Ibiza, the artist’s oeuvre is characterized by an ironic conflation of Conceptualism and Minimalism. In this way, Brüggemann’s practice sits outside the canon of the conceptual artists practicing in the 1960s and 1970s, who sought dematerialisation and rejected the commercialisation of art. Instead his aesthetic is refined and luxurious, whilst maintaining a punk attitude.