Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys

Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys

Les Énigmes de Saarlouis


June 20, 2019 – August 4, 2019

Many years ago, I lived in the hamlet of Garrison Landing, in New York’s Hudson Valley. The Landing is a small strip of commercial and quaint residential buildings, mostly erected in the 1850s. In our front yard was the Metro North rail into New York; the backyard was the small patch of grass which gave way to rumbling current of the Hudson River. Through the kitchen windows were unobstructed dramatic views of the Neo-Gothic castles of the US Military Academy at West Point. The sliver contained a local art center, a playhouse, a yoga studio and masseuse, an antiquarian map shop, a “yacht club” that doubled as a dock, and the Little Chapel on the River: Guinan’s Pub & Country Store. Notable residents included Patty Hearst, a reoccurring judge from Law & Order, and former governor George Pataki.

An unmarked break in the trees just south of Garrison Station starts a winding, crisscrossing, zigzagging network of hiking trails. Every summer day I’d walk alongside the river past the downed trees, the meandering brooks, and remnants of crumbled homes with their chimneys still tall amongst the woodland. Mostly it was just us out there - those who commute Monday – Friday down to Grand Central and on the weekends just want to walk someplace that feels like another planet. To disappear into the silence. In passing we would nod or sometimes mumble hello but would never break stride. And then there were those from the top of the hill. In the early 2000s a group renovated the old Capuchin monastery and renamed it the Garrison Institute. Founded as a non-profit, non-sectarian organization, the Garrison Institute consists mostly of power New Yorkers, lots of finance and advertising and television folks who have come in search of refuge and reflection. They are committed to harnessing the power of contemplative wisdom, which can be best found via 4-to-7 days of silent meditation. On the trails you could spot someone from the Institute a mile away. As you approached, they would come to a full stop. They would say hello, but quickly follow with asking what was new in the world. They would ask about current affairs, stock market, anything really. They’d walk alongside you and speak of disconnects in their marriage, their relationship with parents, regrets in career paths. Nothing off limits. And we knew they were out there, lurking in the woods, like toll booths in otherwise paradise. After days of not speaking we, the strangers hiking, were the recipients of the greatest mind/mouth dump imaginable.

I think about those walks each time I watch Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys Les Énigmes de Saarlouis (The Riddles of Saarlouis, 2012). We are challenged by disheveled twins, Kitty & Katty, who present us with a relentless stream of maddening enigmatic riddles. Our protagonists are played by a pair of mannequins wearing monastic robes and weary eyeglasses on their beat up, long-ago tattered Styrofoam heads. Their scattered homespun eyes consist of nothing more than white-headed thumb tacks. Together they stand in a banal, clinically lackluster space. Saarlouis itself is a German town on the French border, a micro-sized territory built as a fortress after the Franco-Dutch War of 1672-78. It’s one of the oldest questions in the book: are you walling out others or wall yourself in? There is a beautifully blank sense of humor born from that alienation. Speaking in French with computerized voices, just as we begin to process their absurd games they are on to the next. And the next. Smug smiles on their dummy faces.

Bios

Jos de Gruyter

Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) have been collaborating since the late 1980s. Together, the artists make films, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures in which we find characters, objects and spaces that are at once ultra-identifiable and non-authoritarian. Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have had numerous institutional solo exhibitions including Konkurs Eksperten at Kunsthal Aarhus (2018); White Suprematism at Portikus Frankfurt and CAC Vilnius (2016); Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis at MCA Chicago; Fine Arts at MOMA PS1, Die Schmutzigen Puppen von Pommern at The Power Station Dallas and Tram 3 at CCA Wattis (2015); Das Wunder des Lebens at Kunsthalle Wien (2014) and Optimundus at M HKA Antwerp (2013). The artists were included in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and the 5th Berlin Biennale (2008). They are currently representing Belgian in the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Work courtesy of Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York.

Harald Thys

Jos de Gruyter (b. 1965) and Harald Thys (b. 1966) have been collaborating since the late 1980s. Together, the artists make films, drawings, paintings, photographs and sculptures in which we find characters, objects and spaces that are at once ultra-identifiable and non-authoritarian. Jos de Gruyter and Harald Thys have had numerous institutional solo exhibitions including Konkurs Eksperten at Kunsthal Aarhus (2018); White Suprematism at Portikus Frankfurt and CAC Vilnius (2016); Im Reich der Sonnenfinsternis at MCA Chicago; Fine Arts at MOMA PS1, Die Schmutzigen Puppen von Pommern at The Power Station Dallas and Tram 3 at CCA Wattis (2015); Das Wunder des Lebens at Kunsthalle Wien (2014) and Optimundus at M HKA Antwerp (2013). The artists were included in the 55th Venice Biennale (2013) and the 5th Berlin Biennale (2008). They are currently representing Belgian in the 2019 Venice Biennale.

Work courtesy of Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York.

Location

Gallery 4 gallery map


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