Swiss Artist Ugo Rondinone Returns to His Roots in a Career Retrospective at Museum Luzern

"Cry Me a River" invites visitors to be immersed in the artist's creative world.

Ugo Rondinone, cry me a river (1997–2024). Photo: Stefan Alternburger. Courtesy of the artist and Kunstmuseum Luzern.

Originally from Brunnen, Switzerland, multimedia artist Ugo Rondinone (b. 1964), who is represented by Galerie Eva Presenhuber, relocated abroad to New York City in the 1990s following acceptance into the International Studio Program at MoMA PS1. Despite making New York his home, Switzerland has remained a touchstone for the artist, and his newest solo exhibition and retrospective at the Museum Luzern, “Cry Me a River,” can be understood as a proverbial homecoming for the artist.

Installation view of "Ugo Rondinone: Cry Me a River" (2024) featuring primitive (2011–2012), comprised of four small-scale bird sculptures arranged on the floor, and viewable through a doorway lighting (2023), which is a florescent, large-scale sculpture that looks like a lightning strike. Walls and floor are both a muted grey.

Installation view of “Ugo Rondinone: Cry Me a River” (2024) featuring primitive (2011–2012) and lighting (2023). Photo: Stefan Alternburger. Courtesy of the Kunstmuseum Luzern (2024).

Director of Kunstmuseum Luzern Fanni Fetzer said, “I was really surprised that Ugo Rondinone wanted to interpret this retrospective exhibition at the Kunstmuseum Luzern as a home game, but I’m absolutely thrilled with the result. He takes up themes that are typical of this region, such as the beauty of nature, dramatic weather changes, or the relationship between humans and animals. The exhibition is both sensual and stimulating. It invites visitors to trust their own perceptions and gives room to strong feelings.”

On view through October 20, 2024, the exhibition title “Cry Me a River” thematically recalls the refrain popular in music as well as concretely refers to the Reuss river that flows in front of the Kunstmuseum Luzern within the Vierwaldstättersee. It is also a callback to Rondinone’s earlier career in the period just before he moved abroad, as he was the subject of another solo exhibition of the same title in Zurich in 1995. Through these various lenses, the present exhibition brings together moth recognizable motifs and works from his oeuvre as well as more recent, exploratory pieces.

A gallery space with the walls completely obscured by hundreds of crudely but colorfully drawn pictures. On the left wall a gold party streamer curtain is hung up.

Ugo Rondinone, your age, and my age and the age of the sun (2013–ongoing). Photo: Stefan Alternburger. Courtesy of the Kunstmuseum Luzern (2024).

Weaving between immersive installations and poetically understated sculptures and objects, visitors are given an in-depth look at Rondinone’s creative imagination. The influence of nature operates as a proverbial through line, with works like lights, lightings, and glorious light (all 2023) making lighting tangible and still juxtaposed with small bird flocks like primitive (2011–12), and a massive rainbow cry me a river (1997–2024), all coalescing together to create a parallel natural world of Rondinone’s own creation.

Four monumental sculptures in a grey gallery space made of stone that abstractly look like human figures.

Ugo Rondinone, figures (2023). Photo: Stefan Alternburger. Courtesy of the Kunstmuseum Luzern (2024).

Playful yet poignant, the exhibition can be seen as a love letter to the country he once—and perhaps to some extent still does—called home. Considered one of Switzerland’s most important contemporary artists, the institutional locale lends to a seamless understanding of Rondinone’s work; not simply objects and works set within the isolation of the gallery space, but in conversation with the greater landscape at large. “Cry Me a River” promises to mark a pivotal moment within the artist’s trajectory to date, but his practice moving forward into the future as well.

Ugo Rondinone: Cry Me a River” is on view at Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, through October 20, 2024.

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