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written for the exhibition catalogue: if then else

There are many ways of approaching traditional formats and their praxis of painting, drawing, etc. Accordingly, LAb|au] researches actual forms using tools of today, exploring their codes and logics where engineering, aesthetics and art history constantly overlap. Conceptual art started to supersede craft-based art in the mid-60s, characterised by the dematerialisation of art, focusing on its procedural rather than material qualities, typified by the use of instructions and formal language. The process of art-making turned into a subject in itself and language as a means of representation was no longer limited to words, but extended to colour and shape. Art relied on autoreferential pictorial elements, where points, lines and surfaces and red, yellow and blue became detached from any secondary message. Scribbling on the canvas, painting colour surfaces, writing numbers and equations put further the act of making art into focus, eliminating any metaphysical considerations. Colour fields and conceptual paintings as early algorithmic art all relied on non-verbal, visual abilities, extracting rules, analogies and structures through logical and abstract reasoning. They manifest a controlled sensitivity that shows the systematic planning and conceptual framework that belie their simple appearance.

​“When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”
_Sol LeWitt.

​Sol LeWitt added another dimension to conceptual abstraction, arguing that it does not matter if an idea ever even manifests itself as a physical painting; it also does not matter how it is painted or who paints it. All that matters is the artist’s original idea. As a demonstration, LeWitt began designing wall murals that were executed by people following his written instructions.

​“It was conceptual art, made by a machine.”
_Frieder Nake

​The artwork, as being an ‘executable’, has further been brought into the realm of the machine by the plotter drawings of artists like Frieder Nake, Manfred Mohr and Vera Molnar. Likewise, instructions, schemes, files and folders, postcards and world maps all became means of representation and led to an ‘aesthetic of administration’ typified by serial logic and permutation progression.

​LAb[au]’s ‘origamiSeries’ in all its different developments is a good example of subscribing to this tradition based on visual reasoning and instructions. The series is based on the subdivision of a surface into regular and/or semi-regular tiles, creating the regular or irregular contour of the artwork. It reminds us of Frank Stella’s Black Paintings, constituted of concentric and parallel straps where the contour of the canvas follows its internal pattern, attributing to the subject the status of an object, following a simple pictorial rationale: ‘What you see is what you see’. Stella’s quote further exemplifies how linguistic concepts such as tautology entered visual reasoning.

​Formal logic is applied in LAb[au]’s origami reliefs through programming that determines the folding and unfolding of their elements. Their movement produces infinite patterns with permutational progression based on a common grid; hence their titles like ‘origamiPinwheel’. Whereas the mapping of the tiles’ movement led to the ‘origamiLexicon’, a static notation system showing each iteration of the process covering entire walls, to become a ‘reading’ space in itself. This flattening out of a logical visual system and the different manners in which to organise its combinations has further led to the work ‘origamiJacquards’. The development introduces linguistic rules such as grammar, alphabets and binary transcription, turning the patterns of the tapestry into a visual dictionary.

Using different media, the origami series exemplifies today’s translation of conceptual art notion of ‘intermedia’, which allows language not to be limited to literature, sound not to be limited to music, space not to be limited to sculpture and motion not to be limited to dance. ‘Conceptual works sought to erase traditional divisions between medium and métier rather than between categorical classifications as such.’ The series in its different formats is based on the random alternation of regular and irregular patterns, completing the binary play between surface and space, positive and negative geometries where formal language and visual reasoning meet conceptual dialectic.
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