Function Follows Vision, Vision Follows Reality at Kunsthalle Wien

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Artists: Frederick Kiesler with Leonor Antunes, Olga Balema, Céline Condorelli, Morton Feldman, Annette Kelm, Charlotte Moth, Francesco Pedraglio, Luca Trevisani, Nicole Wermers

Exhibition title:  Function Follows Vision, Vision Follows Reality

Curated by: Luca Lo Pinto, Vanessa Joan Müller

Venue: Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria

Date:  May 27 – August 23, 2015

Photography: Stephan Wyckoff, images courtesy of the artists and Kunsthalle Wien

Note: Exhibition booklet can be found here

“Function follows vision, vision follows reality” was Frederick Kiesler’s guiding principle. Born in the western Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi in 1890, the architect, stage, exhibition and furniture designer studied and worked in Vienna until his emigration to New York in 1926. Frederick Kiesler achieved international renown with his ground-breaking designs and concepts in the areas of architecture and design. His primary interest lay in a cross-disciplinary design that combined both theory and practice.

The exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien Karlsplatz was developed in cooperation with the Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation and takes the 50th anniversary of Kiesler’s passing, and his 125th birthday, as occasion to investigate his infuence on contemporary art. The show is centred around Kiesler’s refections on the subject of displays, as he was already responsible for the conception of numerous innovative exhibition displays during the 1940s, including those for Peggy Guggenheim’s private museum Art of This Century in New York. Even then, he questioned the fundamental aspects of exhibiting art and made observations that continue to remain relevant for contemporary artists to this day. His ideas and designs combine artistic and social considerations, thereby creating situations in which art is able to be experienced in new and innovative ways.

Accordingly, the exhibition Function Follows Vision, Vision Follows Reality places Kiesler’s interest in innovative forms and methods of presentation of art at the centre of its conception. Situated in an atmospheric setting in which the ideas of the visionary designer are taken up and translated into the present, works by contemporary artists correspond with illustrations, texts and photos from Kiesler’s legendary window displays:
Francesco Pedraglio, for example, transforms Kiesler’s writings on window displays into an abstract dialogue, which is presented in the exhibition space as an audio piece centred around the subject of (picture) frames. Céline Condorelli’s Swindelier combines Kiesler’s central design elements of photography, sound and flm with a fan and a shifting light environment in the room to create a type of sculptural portrait of Kiesler himself. Annette Kelm’s still life photography meets the still lifes of garments arranged by Kiesler for the window display of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store in New York in the 1920s. Leonor Antune’s flm String Travel picks up on a theme from an avant-garde flm by Maya Deren, which she shot on-location at the Art of This Century exhibition in the 1940s. Notations by the composer Morton Feldman, a close friend of Kieslers, have the appearance of minimalist drawings due to their abstraction, but are actually instructions for the performance of pieces of music – just as Kiesler’s abstract drawings are proposals for the activation of the viewer within the exhibition space. Other artists take Kiesler’s idea that “colours and forms are the simplest, cheapest and fastest means of transforming a room in a visionary fashion” and respond with interventions that counteract the idea of a neutrally designed exhibition space. Colours, forms and materials come together in an insinuation that is both intuitively reasoned, while simultaneously also providing a sensual experience of Kiesler’s main motives and design principles.

Publication: Accompanying the exhibition, and in cooperation with the Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, a reader will be published featuring reprints of Frederick Kiesler’s texts, as well as documentation of the exhibition.

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Luca Trevisani, As though repetition can legitimize the act, 2014, Courtesy the artist and Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin
Annette Kelm, Espadrilles, 2 GOOD 2 BE TRUE, TTYL, XO, HOW R U?, 2013; Ivy, 2013; Untitled (Tribal), 2010; Materialtest, 2011; Untitled (Korb), 2011, Courtesy the artist and Johann König, Berlin

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Nicole Wermers, Untitled Chair, 2015, Courtesy the artist and Herald St., London

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Céline Condorelli, Swindelier, 2015,

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Luca Trevisani, James Hiram Bedford, 2015

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Frederick Kiesler, U.S. HOUSING in War and Peace, Study for the exhibition design, 1944/45

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Frederick Kiesler, Installation studies for the exhibition Blood Flames, Hugo Gallery, New York, 1947

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Frederick Kiesler, Shop window design for Saks Fifth Avenue, 1927/28

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Frederick Kiesler, Shop window design for Saks Fifth Avenue, 1927/28

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Frederick Kiesler, Shop window design for Saks Fifth Avenue, 1927/28

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