The first gallery exhibition of this year is certain to make waves. The latest work by Morgan Betz (b. 1974) provides everything you might want from a work of art: powerful images that embed themselves in your memory, that pull and push and show that contemporary painting and sculpture can be relevant, fresh, and deceptive.
Betz’s impressive diptych, which made a great impression on the visitors of Art Rotterdam earlier this month, led to high expectations for this exhibition. Betz spurns comfort and safety, an attitude that places him almost automatically at the forefront of today's image makers. Whatever kind of work he takes on, he never allows himself to be seduced into what has become all too common in today's studio practice: the rationalisation and conceptualisation of the present-day visual culture. On the contrary, Betz produces images that are drawn directly from the reservoir that he has appropriated, in part consciously and in part unconsciously, and in which he instils new life through a process of give and take, in a way that is as refreshing as it is surprising. No theory is needed here.
It takes considerable audacity to touch, to invoke, artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jean Arp: manipulating their images with subtle changes, choices of form and material, producing new images that take on a life of their own, in which the result does not need anything beyond itself in order to persuade, in which it no longer serves to illustrate ideas or history. About that method and the end product, Betz says:
The process is constantly editing and fine tuning . . . until I can disappear behind the scenes of my own creation so that the work can speak for itself and feel spontaneous again. Lately I have been thinking a lot about life cycles, creation and decay and the hidden life of objects as an extension of ourselves. I am not a gardener but it would be great to see a studio in terms of a garden where you plant seeds and things can grow. Some of my recent works connect and react to these thoughts.
I take great pleasure in inviting you to come and admire the remarkable – indeed, sometimes incomparable – world of Morgan Betz with your own eyes. Few artists of his generation have Betz's powers of persuasion, or display such eagerness to explore the formal principles of painting and sculpture. Come and see for yourself.