[Van AbbeMUSEUM]

Ger van Elk
The Cadillac and the Non


The second exhibition of the work of Ger van Elk to be held at the Van Abbemuseum this autumn
presents works which will be unfamiliar to many. They are short films and slide works dating from 1969 to 1972 that have hardly ever been shown since then. With a few exceptions, this part of the artist's
oeuvre is not found in public collections. The Van Abbemuseum would like to draw attention to these works, not only because they are little known but also because they represent a particularly intriguing, absorbing and witty aspect of his oeuvre. Moreover, they have a special significance at the present
time because of the parallels with the work of a younger generation which the Van Abbemuseum has shown in recent years, for example Aernout Mik, Marijke van Warmerdam and Jeroen Eisinga. Partly because of this, the Van Abbemuseum would seem to be the ideal place to rescue these works from obscurity.

The slide and film works have a special position in Van Elk's oeuvre. In his essay in the accompanying catalogue Ron Kaal puts it as follows: 'He stopped making them as abruptly as he started them. At first sight there is no connection to the later work that made Van Elk famous. They are minor actions, of ten filmed a little clumsily, sometimes fixed on a tripod, sometimes with a slight movement. The medium is less important that the event; the camera is merely the witness. On reflection, the recurrent theme
linking this work with the rest of his oeuvre 15 the artist's attitude. For him nothing is obvious and he pauses to wonder at phenomena which others continually pass by.'

Of course these works did not come out of nowhere. In the sixties and seventies, when Van Elk was living at intervals in Los Angeles, many artists there were working with photography and film, among them John Baldessari, Allen Ruppersberg, and William Wegman. The Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader, who was a good friend, was also living in Los Angeles at that is also explained in the catalogue: 'In
interviews Ger van Elk often mentions an experience, an observation coupled to an insight, that has been crucially important in his work. It happened when he had only just moved to Los Angeles, in the
early sixties. "In Hollywood," he says, "I saw Catholic nuns driving round in a yellow Cadillac." (...) For Van Elk America meant a confrontation with himself. Everything that to his Dutch eyes seemed fixed and self-evident was undermined. (...) The nuns in the Cadillac made it clear to him that the spiritual is not alien to the material; even the banal can be a vehicle for the elevated.'


The exhibitions are accompanied by two comprehensive publications with many illustrations in colour and black and white and an extensive biography and bibliography. 'The horizon, a mental perspective' includes an essay by the Portuguese art historian Jacinto Lageira in which he considers the
significance of landscape and the horizon in Van Elk's work. The Dutch critic Ron Kaal discusses his film and slide works in 'The Cadillac and the nun'.

[Van AbbeMUSEUM]