press release

Sprüth Magers London is pleased to present ‘Los Angeles’ featuring new work by the German-born, Greek artist Michail Pirgelis in his first solo exhibition in the U.K. A graduate of the prestigious Düsseldorf Academy and former Master student of Rosemarie Trockel, Pirgelis’ artistic practice explores the sculptural possibilities of decommissioned airplane parts.

Since 2003, Pirgelis has made frequent visits to the ‘boneyards’ of Arizona and California, the now legendary resting places and holding facilities of scores of obsolete aircraft and flight-related paraphernalia. The planes either await re-deployment or are stripped piece-by-piece of their highly valuable parts which are incorporated back into other still viable vessels, with some craft remaining little more than carcasses. Pirgelis’ sculptures are often carefully hybridised amalgams of these incongruous aircraft components. Untitled (From the Air Saddles #7) (2011) is one of a series of pieces that fuse thick rubber strops with slices of the highly polished fuselage with the window frames still visible; the latter a small yet significant indication of a now disavowed functionality. However, in utilising sought-after materials that continue to have a use-value in the multi-billion dollar aviation industry, the sculptures, regardless of modification, have the potential to resume their previous ‘life’ once again, as functioning parts of an aircraft. It is all the more significant that Pirgelis’ works have on occasion been reintegrated back into functioning aircraft.

For Pirgelis, ‘Los Angeles’ has been the hub of his travels to the U.S.A. and is emblematic of the bygone era of exclusivity and luxury once associated with aviation. The highly polished aluminium surfaces of Mainframe (2011) and Untitled (Kleines Fenster / Small Window)(2011) (working title) recall the golden days of flight, and signal an attempt to revivify the long lost aura associated with aviation, if not the glamour that has been eroded by a proliferation of budget airlines that have rendered flight a form of mass transportation. In direct contrast with these works, nestled in the corner of the gallery, Schmale Kapsel / Narrow Capsule (2011) explores the physicality of interior aircraft spaces and represents the ‘non-glamorous’ rationalisation of space within the streamlined confines of an aircraft. The viewer is faced with the physical and technological fact of flight: the normally invisible workings of the capsule, where cables and pipes protrude and expose the human factor - if not human error - in the construction of aircraft parts. The former glory of flight, with its fetishization of aircrafts and the accoutrements of flight itself, could also have a counterpart here in the fetish-like appearance of the sculptural objects that have emerged from these forsaken airplanes.

Despite the connotations of disembodied airplane parts, Pirgelis does not aim to raise the spectre of the plane crash; on principle, Pirgelis never uses parts that have come from plane wreckage. Through his artistic practice, what he seeks to explore is the notion of ‘fragility’ as he calls it, as an aspect of ‘psychological experience.’ Man’s dream of flying, if not the hubris associated with it, embodies this fragility by drawing the finest of lines between complete success and total failure. Flight will always be an unnatural phenomenon for human beings and the ability to comprehend the science of flight, that which makes it technologically possible, remains for many the very thing we attempt - perhaps out of fear - to psychologically defer if not repress.

Michail Pirgelis was born in 1976 in Essen, Germany and raised in Xanthi, Greece. He lives and works in Cologne. In 2010 Pirgelis was the recipient of the Audi Art Award for ‘New Positions’ at Art Cologne and was also awarded the Schloss Ringenberg Stipendium. In 2008 he was the first artist to be presented with the Adolf Loos-Preis by the Van den Valentyn Foundation, Cologne. Solo shows include: ‘Aerotopie’ at Főrderverein Aktuelle Kunst, Münster (2006); ‘Akropolis’ at Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2010) and ‘Aeromaritime’ Artothek Cologne (2011). Group exhibitions include: ‘Play’ at the Stadtmuseum Düsseldorf (2005); ‘Schneeweiss’, a joint show with Rosemarie Trockel, at the Rohrmeisterei, Schwerte (2006); ‘Mondi Possibili’ at Sprüth Magers, Cologne (2006); ‘Quattro Stelle’ at the Villa Romana, Florence (2007); ‘Great Expectations’ at ArtLab21, Los Angeles (2008); ‘Saar Főrderpreis Junge Kunst 2008’ at Kunstverein Ludwigshafen (2009); ‘Der Westen leuchtet’ at Kunstmuseum Bonn (2010); and ‘Neues Rheinland’ at Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen (2010).

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Michail Pirgelis