In 1998, Jef Geys travelled to Lisbon, hometown of the legendary fado singer Amália Rodrigues (1920–1999), who holds a fascination for him. During his brief rest and relaxation stay he took dozens of photographs: not at all your standard tourist stuff, but over and over shadows cast on pavements and walls.
Artist(s) Jef Geys
Venue Air de Paris, Paris
The same year saw the publication of Jef Geys: Al de zwart-wit fotos’s tot 1998 (All the Photos in Black and White until 1998): all his black & white contact sheets since 1958. 500 pages divided into series: individual people, chalets, cows, nudes, cyclists – seemingly insignificant moments reflecting no particular aesthetic criteria. 500 contact sheets signaling the importance of photography in the Geys oeuvre, both as representation of the world and vernacular expression. For over 60 years now he has been busily tampering with the «sovereign practices of art», notably via his resort to the private and personal.
In 2012, at the invitation of curator Miguel Wandschneider, Geys showed As Sombras de Lisboa (Shadows of Lisbon) at Lisbon’s Culturgest gallery. His first exhibition in Portugal was made up of a group of photographs from the 500th contact sheet. Substantially enlarged, each served as a backdrop to a smaller version of the same image. For the overall presentation – selection, dimensions, etc. – Geys came up with a protocol involving the swapping of functions between artist and curator.
This same transposition marked his exhibition at the Yale Union art centre in Portland, Oregon, in April 2018. As Nicholas Tammens, curator of the exhibition, explained, «Geys set up a game and prescribed a task usually under the jurisdiction of the artist.» With the same series of photos in mind, Geys commissioned seven folding screens, leaving it up to the curator to choose the images that would cover them, among the remains of the previous exhibition.
These are the seven screens now on show here, recreating the shadows of Lisbon on the floor and the walls of (Air de) Paris.
Jef Geys (1934–2018, Belgium) was among Europe’s most respected yet under-acknowledged artists. Since 1971, Geys has been the editor and publisher of his local newspaper, the Kempens Informatieblad, and subsequently produced them in line with his exhibitions. Jef Geys represented Belgium in the 53rd Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition in 2009. His work was included in Documenta 11 in 2002,…. He has exhibited worldwide including at M HKA, Antwerp (2017, 2011, 2009); IAC Villeurbanne/Rhone-Alpes (2017, 2007); S.M.A.K., Ghent (2015); Cubitt, London (2013); CNEAI, Chatou (2016, 2014, 2012); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2013, 2009); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2010); Bawag Foundation, Vienna (2009), amongst others.