Life in Germany: Guy Yanai in Düsseldorf
Dealing with this unparalleled period of uncertainty is stressful, but we so admire how artists worldwide are adapting, persevering and sourcing inspiration amid the challenges. One such example is Guy Yanai’s Life in Germany solo show now on view at Conrads Gallery in Dusseldorf.
Postponed from its original date, the show was set to run parallel to Eté 2020, the artist's debut solo showcase with Niels Kantor Gallery in Beverly Hills, creating a unique moment for Yanai to make two presentations around the globe, neither of which he was able to attend. Interestingly, the pandemic started to affect his second solo show in Germany long before its opening date. Originally planned as the artist's interpretation of the past 30 years since the country's reunification after the fall of the Wall, the focus took a sudden turn in March, when "the world stopped turning." Moving through the collective state of lethargy and void, the artist processed through acceptance and adaptation, eventually getting back to his studio. "The only great thing about the pandemic is that it forced everybody to be very flexible," the artist told us. "If you’re not agile and elastic then this period is even harder. But if you can stop, look, and think, then you can adapt. That’s why this show is special. It changed and transformed the initial idea and became something else that I still cannot put into words." With a clearer head, and now working with no imposed deadlines, openings, or shows, he felt ready to start exploring things outside of his typical range of interest. The results of that examination are now on view under the cryptic title Life in Germany.
Yanai started discovering new sources of inspiration while having his life limited to home and studio. In this new landscape, his signature plant images became simplified, pushed off-center, and the greenery drawn bent with fewer leaves dangling from half-naked branches. At the same time, his ubiquitous sailboats often got docked, and the interiors became emptier and quieter than ever before. Finally, after eschewing faces and portraits, the artist felt the urge to start painting those too, and a small series of portraits started to emerge, a Scottish artist, a French writer, and few others he came across while watching streams or videos online.
"I kept on thinking about this film, by Jean-Luc Godard, Germany Year 90 Nine Zero, made right when the wall came down, and about Germany, a country that I have ancestral connections to. Marx and Freud, two German Jews!" Influenced by the atmosphere of Godard's film, the artist created a showcase that still carries its original title but comprises images that identify a new reality around which the exhibition was made. Just as detective Lemmy Caution roams aimlessly around the freshly reunited Berlin in the film, leading the part narrative and part documentary essay picture about German history and politics, Yanai has constructed his own storyline while reevaluating his current place in the new situation as well as his relationship with Germany. —Sasha Bogojev