Opening This Week: Ugo Rondinone at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

Vocabulary of Solitude, opening at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen on Saturday, follows Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s signature mood; a meeting of manic joy with sombre gloom. The centrepiece, 45 human-sized clowns, feeds into this.

Not only are clowns inherently strange beasts to begin with (seriously, who knows that they’re thinking?), they also capture well the mode of adult-pretending-it’s-all-ok. Behind the mad grins, and the colourful clothes and banterous high-jinks is a wall of upset, confusion, and, you guessed it, solitude. We are all clowns. The clowns are each named after actions undertaken (often in solitude) around the house; cook, yawn, dream and so on.

Alongside this, are various other brightly or pastel coloured sculptures; a large pair of clown shoes hanging from a nail, a dropping lightbulb, a candle caught mid-melt. These too–though rather luscious in appearance–reflect this feeling of solitude. Though they are objects that could be connected with entertainment, luminosity and socialising respectively, they are robbed of their purpose here.

But, as with all of Rondinone’s work, it’s possible to leave feeling uplifed, a cathartic element perhaps to the mix of sadness and vibrance in the work. One window is covered with a rainbow filter, shedding coloured light out onto the lawn. He’s also formed a 4 x 30m wall of rainbow drawings, with the help of the thousands of children who created them.

With Rondinone, a fair amount is certainly emotion-driven. As he says: ‘Good art revolutionizes your whole being. It is something that stops you, or slows you down.’

‘Vocabulary of Solitude’ is showing at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam from 13 February until 29 May

Ugo Rondinone, (celestial cyan candle), 2013, cast bronze, lead, paint, 7.5 x 7 x 5 cm
Ugo Rondinone, vierzehnterseptemberzweitausendundfünfzehn, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 270 x 540 cm.
Ugo Rondinone, the seventeenth hour of the poem, 2007, cast wax, pigments, 140 x 82 x 82 cm
Ugo Rondinone, vocabulary of solitude, sleep, 2014 clown costume, mask.
Ugo Rondinone, yellow pink blue clock, 2015, stained-glass window, wire ̧ 60 cm
Ugo Rondinone, mute, 2006, artificially aged clown shoes of leather, wooden nail, paint, 100 x 60 x 25 cm.