German-born Herman de Vries (b. 1931) represents The Netherlands at the 56th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia with his latest exhibition to be all ways to be. A biologist and natural scientist by training, de Vries over six decades has produced a strikingly versatile oeuvre in which themes like art, science and philosophy are juxtaposed with the realities of the world. He is fascinated by natural processes and the phenomena in which human existence is anchored. de Vries gathers, orders, isolates and displays natural objects in a bid to emphasise both the oneness and the diversity of the world around us. The picturesque Dutch pavilion houses an amalgam of the artist’s most recent sculptures, objects, works on paper and photography under the curatorship of Colin Huizing and Cees de Boer.
The title to be all ways to be is an essentialisation of the message de Vries conveys through his latest body of work: the idea that individual experience and reflections on the human condition are equally valid and that no one path, or set of conclusions drawn from these infinitely divergent avenues of human experience is superior to the other. to be all ways to be explores the physical and natural surroundings of the city of Venice. Experienced through the eye, ear, body and nose, de Vries’ installations in the pavilion, the Giardini and at different locations around the Venetian Lagoon question visitor’s existing conceptions of nature and culture, and re-evaluate the degree of synthesis between the two outwardly independent phenomenons. In addition to the artist’s 108 piece giornale di venezia he will invite the public to observe, and take stock of the habitat around them. Specialised boat trips introduce visitors to de Vries’s sanctuarium, followed by natura mater at the Lazaretto Vecchio, an uninhabited and historically rich island just south of the city.
Works by de Vries are included in museum collections worldwide. Pieces of his were included in the 2014 retrospective ZERO exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum New York, Martin Gropius Bau Berlin and Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. His latest works and variations on older projects also feature in this year’s ZERO showcase.
Herman de Vries, to be all ways to be, until 22 November, La Biennale di Venezia, Venice.
Find out more www.mondriaanfonds.nl/en/venice-biennale
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1. Overview Dutch pavilion 2015 Photo: Judith Jockel. Courtesy of Mondrian Fund.