Luca Frei

December 5, 2008 - February 2, 2009
Luca Frei’s work can be seen as a series of games that he invites us to join in, only to discover that he has changed the rules, confounding expectations but offering interesting alternatives. His installations of two- and three-dimensional works may have the semblance of recognisable things such as trees, shelves, benches, or texts, but these are re-presented in new and unusual configurations to provide what curator Charles Esche describes as “literal space for imaginative use” (Cream 3, Phaidon, 2004).

Attempts to tie Frei’s works to definitive meanings or answers are futile, they exist to provide fertile, open-ended points of engagement, sparking new ideas and connections, and triggers for the memories or past experiences that we bring to them. This playfulness goes hand in hand with a political undertow, a quietly subversive questioning of order and convention, and an imaginative resistance or alternative to the status quo.
Frei’s installation at Ingleby Gallery is a play of opposites, balancing the linear and the fluid, the measured and the haphazard, to suggest new possibilities for seeing and experiencing the world. Suspended from the ceiling, a sculpture made from bolted lengths of maple plywood recalls the archaic charms of wooden school rulers, an association which is simultaneously undermined by their random lengths and disjointed, figurative structure. On the walls, three loosely geometric ink drawings lead the viewer around the space, while the marionette-like wooden construction is echoed in a carefully constructed collage. An astute and intelligent observer, Frei found ideas for these works in all kinds of places, from Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 film Modern Times in which the silent actor finds himself trapped in the giant cogs of a factory production line, to a recent television advert for financial giant Fortis. Having lifted the company’s cheery pop-philosophical slogan “Life is a curve, where are you on it? Here Today Where Tomorrow?” to place on his own hand-drawn ribbon of ink, Frei transforms it into a reminder of life’s precariousness: after the economic upheavals of 2008, Fortis is no more.

Luca Frei was born in 1976 in Lugano, Switzerland and currently lives and works in Sweden. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art and Malmö Art Academy, and this installation will mark his first solo exhibition in the UK since the Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh in 2000. Watch Out, a solo show at Studio Dabbeni, Lugano opens just prior to our exhibition (until 27 December, 2008) and other projects in 2008 have included: A Town (Not a City) at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen; An Archaeology of Longing, at Kadist Art Foundation, Paris; Democracy in America: The National Campaign with Creative Time, New York; and After October at Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York. In 2009, Bookworks will re-print Frei’s artist book The so-called utopia of the centre beaubourg - An Interpetation, a re-presentation of Swiss sociologist Albert Meister’s volume La soi-distant utopie de centre beaubourg (1976).