International exhibitions

International 2009 Archives

Ugo Rondinone, The Night of Lead
Museo de Arte Contempaneo, Leon (Spain)
11.07.2009 - 10.01.2010

07.09 - 25.11.2012

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Press release

The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla Y León presents Swiss-born artist Ugo Rondinone's solo debut in Spain. The Night of Lead, curated by Agustun Pérez Rublo. The show will cover 2500 m², half of the space normally allotted to temporary exhibitions. Ugo Rondinone employs a wide range of registers, accumulated during his last 20 years' working experience. The result is a complex and melancholic artistic experience, a dreamscape that reflects Rondinone's fascination with rituals, dreams, poetry and the everyday of the human condition.

The Night of Lead - The Exhibition

Ugo Rondinone's project titles spring from literature, folk music and poetry, his sources of influence. In this case, the title comes from expressionist writer Hans Henny Jahnn's book Die Nacht aus Blei (The Night of Lead), in the artist's worls "is about a nameless person who walks into an unknown city on a winter's night and encounters himself twenty years younger, and dying. The older self guides the younger trough the night, and by the morning the younger self is dead. The novel deals with identity and self-reflection, about how the shelter of the night encourages honesty and catharsis, how the life of the narrator is always at the mercy of its own narration".

In the same way as the novel, Ugo Rondinone uses his massive installations - produced specifically for MUSAC - to describe an introspective journey through a dreamscape, an oniric and emotional experience. The exhibition is divided into five main chapters, representing the idea of a dense, heavy, sleepless night through a web of room events that traverse the boundaries between dream state and reality through asymmetric settings of symbols and metaphors and the manipulation of space and time. All five rooms work simultaneously, in synchronicity, instead of serially, very much in the same way as dream symbols and dream voices.

As with dreams, the symbols and metaphors in play strive towards condensation, free association and communal resonance. With the aid of the show's curator, Rondinone combines new productions with previous works, making the most of the Muesum's ample floor space. The impact : large sculptural assemblages placed next to small figures, grandscale canvases next to small tablets worked in plaster, the pairing of the banal and the sublime. Emotionnaly charges spaces are recreated through the installation of videos or ready-mades. More than 50 pieces and a myriad of expressive forms draw the viewer into the artist's poetic world.

The lure begins with a cluster of six 2.000 years old olive trees and a huge light bulb sculpture. The viewer / participant has no choice but to engage in alternative ways of perceiving images and their narrative baggage. More than a tangible reality, this simulated lanscape (still-inert) speaks of the road travelled and memories gathered, of the reflection about time and nature.


Further on, one enters a room where fourteen large-format paintings centre around the sculpture If There Were Anywhere But desert, Tuesday 2002. An alter ego of the artist, a clown who has lost all semantic power - no longer in its appropriate rome, the figure lies witheres and defeated by the vastness of the starry horizon he sees ahead or has already taken it.

The viewer then enters a space filled with Scholar Rocks, five rock-shaped sculptures made of concrete and rock. Large-scale sculptures reminiscent of the unique rock formations in the Chinese region of Lake Tai, which the artists collects and surround him in his daily life. These sculptures are accompanied by tiny paintings on plaster. Each tiny painting depicts an "unsubstantial" theme on the front (painted on-site on the streets of New York) and a collage on the back (make up of that day's clippings of the New York Times). In this piece, Rondinone evokes the universal themes that attract him : the obsession with time, the burden of existence, nature's sarcasm and the artist's own determination to find a meeting point between personal and collective suffering. For the latter, he chooses a collection of materials steeped in symbolism. In doing so, he makes an ironic nod at the relationship between man's trivial conception of time and the previously established time of his surroundings.


Exhibition 11 July 2009 - 10 January 2010. Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Castilla Y León, Avda, de los Reyes Leoneses, 24 - 24008 León (Spain). Tel.: +34 (0)9 87 09 00 00. Opening hours Tuesday - Friday 10am - 03pm and 05pm-8pm. Saturday-Sunday 11pm - 03pm -and 05pm-09pm.

Ugo Rondinone, The Night of Lead, Museo de Arte Contempaneo, Leon

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2012. All Rights Reserved

The two closing pieces are called Still, Life (John's fireplace) and It's Late... (video installation). The former belongs to the series of cast bronzes filled with lead entitled Still, Life, and this specific piece is a replica of American poet John Giorno's fireplace in his New York apartment. The tour ends with It's late..., a video installation consisting of six black and white projections flooded by blue light coming from the installation's celling. This is the only piece in the exhibition that depicts the human form through the daily "actions" performed by a man and a woman, twelve sequences in a loop accompanied by the constant repetition of the words "everyday sunshine", which reinforce the dull and insipid nature of the actions taking place onscreen. With these ambients dominated by psychical aspect, the emotional memory or the fracture of the action, Ugo Rondinone's project for MUSAC comes to an end. Throughout the exhibition, the viewer is transported to many different places, ultimately he/she is forced to look inward and examine reality from personal experience.