Installation from Bjorn Amelan

New York Live Arts Lobby
On View Fall 2021

Bjorn Amelan returns to the Ford Foundation Live Gallery with his large sumi ink paintings. Amelan’s paintings, suggestive of archaic writing systems such as ideograms and pictographs, live between the real, the evocative, and the symbolic. He makes a primal mark that he then teases into shapes and figures through shading and contour – each shape is defined by the process that created it. Created on large antique handwoven hemp sheets from French farms, Amelan’s dialogue with image and materiality invite the viewers into a zone of uncertainty. Novelist Salman Rushdie remarks: “Bjorn uses his line to mark his sheets and summon up both forms and stories – forms both natural and fantastic, characters both credible and incredible.” Amelan adds, “I have ever more come to see my practice as the creation of scores, like musical scores. I do not understand this music. However, I invite the viewer to lean in with me and by looking, listen to what is being sung.”
Bjorn G. Amelan was the partner of the late fashion designer Patrick Kelly from 1983 until Mr. Kelly passed away on January 1, 1990. Amelan moved to New York to begin his collaboration with Bill T. Jones in 1993 and has designed numerous sets for the works of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. He has shown his work at Dwight Hackett Projects Gallery and Gerald Peters Contemporary, both in Santa Fe, NM. Amelan’s works are in the collections of Agnes Gund, Melva Bucksbaum and 21c Hotels, among others.

Artist Statement: 

My work invites the viewer into a zone of uncertainty – profuse, relentless, ambiguous: the world!

The shapes I create are suggestive of archaic writing systems (ideograms, pictographs) and live in the liminal space between the real, the evocative and the symbolic.

My process begins with primal marks created through a sort of automatism. I then dialogue with these marks, teasing out shapes, figures, associations through shading and contours. At the start, the path towards realization of each shape is undetermined…it defines itself through the process of its making.

My personal and creative realms overlap: I am the Creative Director of New York Live Arts, the performance-based art center founded by my husband, choreographer/director Bill T. Jones. The reference to bodies in motion, which my shapes often suggest, no doubt result from my involvement in the work of our company, the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, whose rehearsals and travels I generally attend.

I began to experiment with mark making on the antique hemp sheets, handwoven in farms in France, that Bill and I have been sleeping on. The very personal initial relation I had to these sheets and the discovery that their texture lent itself to sumi ink painting have made these my preferred medium. Their un-stretched, foldable, surfaces allow me to work on a large scale even while traveling, or in rehearsal studios, and hotel rooms. Once finished, the works are hung like tapestries allowing for the fabric’s weight, density and texture to be felt.  It is this direct – unstretched and unglazed – experience of image and materiality that give these works monumentality.

– Bjorn G. Amelan