Marlborough Contemporary is pleased to present ‘Koen van den Broek: Cut Away the Snoopy’. This will be the second exhibition of the renowned Belgian artist at the gallery and marks a turning point in his artistic practice.
Widely known for his series of paintings inspired by unconventional perspective, for the past decade Koen van den Broek has been consistently influenced by urban landscape. Van den Broek often experienced these landscapes whilst on road journeys in the United States, where he would focus on one detail, taking hundreds of snapshots that he could later use as source material for his canvases. The detail might be a section of a road, cracks in the asphalt, or a particular shape of shadow.
The expression ‘Cut Away the Snoopy’ was used by the sculptor John Chamberlain to designate his notion of the artist’s obligation to remove those recognisable elements or points of association that occur in the composition for the sake of pure form. The exhibition, which is named after Chamberlain’s expression, marks a turning point in van den Broek’s practice, as he pushes all remaining figurative elements towards the field of complete abstraction. The paintings exhibited no longer relate to any specific spaces, allowing the artist to be free from the constraints of referentiality. Rather than drawing from photographs, as he has done for many years, van den Broek now reworks recurring features in his previous paintings, evolving his own formal vocabulary, combining into new compositions. The shadows that once marked van den Broek’s earlier paintings, for example, now become formal devices, repeating their configurations from one painting to another, to the point of conceptual serialism. In this way the new paintings are more overtly abstract, and almost completely detached from any source material or reference to specific landscapes.
While van den Broek’s ‘Torque’ and ‘Birds’ series of paintings perfectly match Chamberlain’s turn of phrase, highlighting the painterly repetition at their origin, Mistress reworks Jean Fouquet’s Madonna and Child, housed in the Koninklijk Museum in Antwerp. In 2011 he was invited to respond to this iconic painting as part of a survey of five centuries of painting in Antwerp. His response, an outline of the instantly recognisable figures in Fouquet’s original, moves towards abstraction, whilst paying homage to the original. Since then, van den Broek has appropriated this form, reworking it as a formal motif in a continuing series of paintings. Mistress, the most recent of this series, goes further, integrating several of the formal motifs with which he has worked in the past few years into one composition.
A fully illustrated catalogue featuring a dialogue between the artist and John C. Welchman accompanies the exhibition.
Koen van den Broek was born in Bree, Belgium in 1973. He lives and works in Antwerp. He has exhibited widely throughout the world, from New York to Seoul, including a major retrospective at SMAK, Ghent, in 2010. Van den Broek has shown in many museum exhibitions including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; DA2, Salamanca; Museo Alto Garda, Trento; Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS) and Museum of Contemporary Art (M HKA), Antwerp. In 2008 van den Broek collaborated with John Baldessari on This an Example of That, a series of works culminating in exhibition at the Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht. His works are in the collections of numerous museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Astrup Fearnley Museet fur Modern Kunst, Oslo; Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle; the Leeum Collection at the Samsung Museum of Modern Art, Seoul; SMAK, Ghent; M HKA, Antwerp.