herman de vries, different & identic, works 1973–2016

exhibtion thru 15 October 2017

Installation view at CONRADS

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herman de vries belongs to the very first artists combining art and ecology.

In 2015, herman de vries (b. 1931) represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennial with a very well-received solo show. Already revered for decades by other artists and connoisseurs, the show in the Rietveld Pavilion effectively introduced his work to a much wider audience.

He initially belonged to the Dutch NUL movement which followed similar objectives to ZERO.  Besides his artistic practice he continued to work as a scientist at the Institute for Applied Biological Research in Nature in Arnhem until 1968. End of the 1960s he has chosen to focus on nature only, which is based on the contradictory principles of order and chaos. As a scientist and as an artist, herman de vries's credo is that »nature doesn't make mistakes«.
Moving to a village in the Steigerwald, a forest he likes to refer to as his »studio«, he had effectively chosen a new, sustainable way of life and work focusing on nature as the main source for his inspiration and his medium.

Time and chance are further aspects that influence his work significantly. When herman de vries began taking an active interest in language as an artistic medium, he studied the writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1965 – in particular his Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. From 1968 until 1975, he produced randomly »objectivated« textual compositions based on the Tractatus. Alongside these works he also generated drawings as a direct implementation of Wittgenstein's philosophical theories organised along similarly random lines. In 1972 Edizioni Amodulo published a hundred of these drawings in book format for the first time, entitled »herman de vries – random objectivations«. Our exhibition presents some »random dots in space« dated 1973. (cf. Wittgenstein: »A spatial point is an argument-place«, Tractatus, 2.0131).

herman de vries's work underwent a conceptual consolidation those days as a result of his engagement with Wittgenstein's philosophy. In further years the scope of his work became much broader via his extensive travels and with direct contact to and influence of non-western cultures. Alongside his textual compositions, the collections he compiles on walks in the surrounding countryside, as well as on his long-distance trips, become substantial for his multifaceted works that seem absolutely timeless and characterise the current relevance of this unique artist.
Since the publication of his first  »weißbuch« (white book) in 1962, herman de vries has accompanied his work with extremely specialised artist books and the »eschenau summer press publications« now running to 100 booklets.