Carel Visser


On the 1st of March, in his hometown in southern France, Le Fousseret, the Dutch artist Carel Visser died at the age of 86. Gallery Borzo in Amsterdam, where the exhibition ‘Carel Visser - Counterbalance’ will be presented from 2/5/2015 to 30/5/2015, announced the news of Carl Visser’s death. According to Borzo, Visser was “an unconventional sculptor, standing on the shoulders of his great example Brancusi.”

Posted 10 March 2015

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Jory van Rosmalen, Borzo Modern & Contemporary Art: “The period after 1945 was in Netherlands for many sculptors a ‘golden’ era, a time of unprecedented zest for work and production. Every city, every village needed a monument to commemorate the horrors of war and occupation and the memory of it chiselled in stone or casted in bronze. It was a golden age for the sculpture classes of the professors Bronner and Esser of the Amsterdam Rijksacademie. They often provided powerful images and impressive monuments when we think of the works of Raedecker, Andriessen, Wezelaar, Van Pallandt, D’Hondt and many others. Figurative with a huge expression and expressiveness. 

Carel Visser, Glasrivier, 1985. Rubber, metaal, autolak en glas, installatie. 70 x 500 x 400 cm. Collectie Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Fotograaf: Jannes Linders, Rotterdam 

However, there were also sculptors in the 1950s for whom that obviousness of the figuration in their discipline was no longer satisfactory. They referred to their great predecessors from the first decades of the 20th century. Masters like Brancusi, Arp and Lipchitz were their heroes. Carel Visser is one of those sculptors for whom the figuration was not the obvious outcome of the sculptor. Rather he experimented with forms and materials, all shapes and materials. In his scrapbooks especially images of prehistoric stone formations, the antiques, old cars and the studios of Brancusi and Giacometti.
For nearly sixty years, Carel Visser has been making pictures, reliefs, drawings, collages and woodcuts. The first images of Visser date back to the 1940s: subtle human and animal figures, welded from iron. In the 1950s, these figures got replaced by robust compositions of geometric shapes, composed of iron plates and beams. Visser examined the functioning of principles as repetition, mirroring, tilting and stacking.
On Tuesday 17 February 2015, The Mayor Gallery in London opened the exhibition ‘Carel Visser - Counterbalance’. In May this exhibition will travel to Borzo Amsterdam.
The opening was attended by some of his British friends, including Nicholas Serota and Clive Adams. Unfortunately, Visser could not be there himself , but Carel’s son Harm told him on his sickbed about this London vernissage and the great public interest. Harm: “Carel was very happy and proud!”
The artist, who also designed jewellery, worked with steel and glass, eggs and feathers, wool and leather. His first images were created in the 1940s: subtle man and ornamental figures of welded iron. In the 1950s and 1960s, he built on the principles of Mondrian’s Neo-plasticism with robust iron sculptures in geometric shapes. In post-war Netherlands - according to Borzo - the abstract visual language of Visser was a fresh fact.
According to NRC’s art editor Sandra Smallenburg Carel Visser was one of the most important post-war Dutch sculptors. “Like his American colleagues Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre in the 1960s he became well-known with his geometric, perfectly abstract sculptures of industrial materials such as rusty steel and concrete. Later, in the 1970s, he also made use of more natural materials such as sand, sheep wool, feathers and even ostrich eggs. Also that fitted in the spirit of that time: the artists of Arte Povera in Italy were also working like that, and in Great Britain Richard Long made geometric shapes of wood and stone. Nature was always a great source of inspiration for Visser. His stacked images derived their rhythm of growth forms, he based his drawings on patterns in the surface of the water. Visser received several awards during his life: In 1972, he was awarded the State Prize for Visual Arts and Architecture, in 1992 the Art Prize of Amsterdam and in 2004 he was awarded the Wilhelmina Ring, the national biennial 2004 oeuvre Prize for sculpture.”
In the magazine The Low Countries, year 10, José Boyens wrote in the article Opting for What Does not yet Exist the Art of Carel Visser: “In 1978 Carel Visser made a statement of principle regarding his tendency to choose new approaches to each work: ‘At a certain moment in your life you can opt to build on what you have achieved and to expand the positions you have occupied. But you can also opt for adventure. Either you choose what there is and must remain, or else that which does not yet exist and which may come, whatever it may be. In my work I ultimately react against what exists and opt for what does not yet exist.’ (12. Ad Petersen, ‘Gesprek met Carel Visser’. In Carel Visser, papierbeelden, exhib. cat. Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam). In the Netherlands in the fifties and sixties Carel Visser pointed the way for the younger generation; even after about 1975 he continued to innovate and the inner freedom he displayed in both form and material kept pace with international developments. Younger artists then became the pioneers, though each one only for a short time. He continues to produce work of a consistently high standard which shows an uncommon sensitivity to the various materials he uses.”
After banning the plinth, accepting rust as colour, assembling building materials and found objects and building floor installations, Visser freed the former techniques of sculpturing as casting and carving for ever of its loaded meanings.
Shown in the exposition Broken Glass in Heerlen, the Netherlands, in 2005 was his sculpture Glass River from 1989, composted of found objects like the roofs of cars, rubber tires and glass window shields.
Angela van der Burght
Correctie Ingrid Bongers
Borzo Kunsthandel BV
Keizersgracht 516
1017 EJ Amsterdam
T +31 (0)20 626 33 03
M +31 (0)6 53163808

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