"When I look back on my activities and my results, I don’t think they have any kind of absolute usefulness. But I realize that I have devoted my whole life to them – so there must be some sort of sufficiently strong obligation or force that incites me to do that. When we’re young we believe we can change the world, but when you get to my age you realize that the world changes of its own accord, without needing us. This probably implies some sort of responsibility. This implication is difficult to define but one consequence of being aware of this responsibility is doubtless that it incites us to act more than by merely producing an occasional painting. I’ve always thought that it would be better if I’d only ever produced one picture – but once there was a second one this became a lost cause and I might as well carry on." John Armleder
John Armleder’s Chabasite is a dizzying explosion of salient line and precise color, blending electric zips of cream white, olive and tropical rose pink into a vertiginous geometric pattern. Hypnotic and familiar, Chabasite—which takes its title from the scientific name for a mineral group—is devoid of any formal concerns, theoretical issues, or personal manifesto. As the artist explains, “I have no genre…I believe in everything. It avoids being stuck in a frame of understanding. That’s a fact of my practice” (J. Baumgardner, “John Armleder, the Artist Who Believes in Everything,” T Magazine, 1 October 2013).
One of the most influential artists of his generation, Armleder’s oeuvre defies categorization. His diverse works encompass fine art, geometry, design, concept, Pop and kitschy trash through installation, paintings, sculpture and performance. Armleder’s output is deeply rooted in the 1960s Fluxus movement, an international network of artists, composers and designers fascinated by concept, chance and performance, who blended disciplines seamlessly while remaining staunchly anti-art, anti-establishment and anti-commercial. Armleder formed the fluxus-inspired Ecart group in Geneva in the late 1960s, which functioned as a collective independent publishing house and performance space. Of his deeply collaborative approach to art-making, Armleder explains “I never really believed in ‘author.’ I think that we are collective beings; our intelligence is the result of an exchange, a conversation or a negotiation, which is of course defined by the time or place in which we live. Nowadays, I think that we can escape the place where we live…” (J. Armleder, interview with A. Bellini, “Curated by John Armleder,” in Kaleidoscope 21, Summer 2014, reproduced at http://www.ok-rm.co.uk/project/kaleidoscope-21).
Unaimed rebel and self-professed maximalist Armleder plucks inspiration from a smorgasbord of styles and influences, playing shrewdly with art’s history and language. He has created sculpture from randomly placed fluorescent bulbs, paintings from steaks of riotous glitter or chunks of Styrofoam, and cast silver in the shape of the human brain. His 2006 installation at the Tate Liverpool was an immersive, disorienting world of mirrors, CD players, Christmas trees, stuffed animals, and potted plants—a genre-bending fever dream of nonsense fantasy and strange beauty. Armleder often playfully appropriates modern and post-war art movements—from the cascading paint of color field, to the clean geometrics of hard edge and supremacism, Dan Flavin’s minimalist bulbs, and the Duchampian readymade—infusing them with his own winking Postmodern touch. Armleder’s poured paint is infused and overloaded with chunks of metallic and resin, his readymade a hot pink electric guitar. In Chabasite, he revels in the crisp, allover patterning and hypnotism of 1960s Op-Art, but gives history a postmodern jolt with his own off-kilter color scheme and singular contemporary pattern.