Avery Preesman

Year and place of birth: 1968, Willemstad, Curaçao Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Avery Preesman hails from a musical background. Initially a self-taught artist, he trained at De Ateliers in Amsterdam in the early 1990s. While there, he garnered attention for his revival of abstract painting. He was awarded second place in the Prix de Rome in 1994 and exhibited internationally from 1996 to 2006, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent and in an exhibition that toured America. He subsequently won several other prizes and resided at Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Texas for a period. He became less active after 2006.

Preesman’s oeuvre can be separated into paintings and drawings. The artist himself does not divide his work in this way but speaks of “pictorial sculptures”. He stated: “But no matter how plastic and sculptural my work may be, it is always made from a painter’s perspective”. Preesman claims that the small painting ‘Bellamyplein’ (1992) was decisive for every painting and sculpture that followed. Based on photographs of the eponymous Amsterdam square, it reveals Preesman’s eye for architectural constructions.

Avery Preesman’s paintings are always loaded with paint. Sometimes he incorporates coconuts or beans into his canvases. His works feel solid and comprise thick layers of pigment into which the artist scratches, as though he wants to liberate the intervening spaces. Preesman appears to treat paintings both as carriers of an image and as objects. His works sometimes feature letters or text fragments. For instance, the ‘T’ refers to architecture: the character unites a vertical (supporting) element and a horizontal (supported) one. The artist is also interested in hip-hop musicians and how they play with language, sound and rhythm.

Through his quest for spatiality in painting, Preesman would soon liberate it from all traditional constraints. In 1993, he created the first cage-like wall sculptures that are now synonymous with his work: straight or angled wooden beams or metal profiles joined together in an open structure, the ribs wrapped with a rich amalgam of plaster mixed with sand and/or cement. Preesman wants to avoid his works dominating their surroundings and opens a space for our gaze. Hans Den Hartog Jager once wrote that Preesman “blows up the lines in his paintings to the third dimension and elaborates them as ‘concrete line systems’. By driving abstraction out of the second and into the third dimension, the works can take possession of real space and do not remain stuck as illusionistic representation.”

The ‘Calypso’ exhibition that Preesman co-organised with other artists at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in 1995 took the form of one huge installation that extended beyond the building. Visitors literally walked in and through the work. Dominic Van den Boogerd noted a similarity with Jessica Stockholder’s ‘pictorial stagings’. Preesman’s American touring exhibition of 2006 not only included new paintings but also a hanging, wreath-shaped sculpture, a floor sculpture, paintings connected by a long wall sculpture and a photo series with images of a house that the artist’s father built in Curaçao. Preesman thematises his origins and seems to use them to illustrate the source of his fascination with the essence of architecture.

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