L.A. Galerie Lothar Albrecht presents:
Works by Birgit Antoni, Johannes Franzen, John Hilliard and Imi Knoebel
January11 to March 1, 2008
You and your friends are cordially invited to the opening on Friday, 11 January 2008, at 7 p. m.
Since the late 1930s, artists have increasingly dealt with the subject of geometry. The list of names coming to mind includes Josef Albers, Max Bill, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra and Laurence Weiner, among many others. Geometry is involved in concrete art, minimalism, serial and conceptual art. In Islamic art, too, geometry obviously plays a central role.
This exhibition is a juxtaposition of four artists with their different techniques and approaches to the motto of “Beyond Geometry.” Geometry – measurable relations of points, straight lines and intersections, planes and bodies constructed from basic elements – constituted the main reference point for the artists, yet the title also suggests that the works shown are examples of a realm past the mere geometrical.
While based on simple elements, the works of the four different artists developed into highly complex and artful objects in different ways. The controlled and objectifiable evolutionary processes of the pictures did not stop them from exuding a distinctive atmosphere that passes on to the viewer.
Cologne-based Birgit Antoni has been working with the basic element of the circle for more than a decade, creating her pictures from hand-drawn circles and their overlaps. Often the circles and their contours themselves have been painted over, remaining visible only as negative forms. The viewer’s eye then assigns the adjacent segments of varying colors to the underlying circle. This process causes no small irritation. Because the circles were drawn by hand, their shapes and sizes differ to varying degrees, as if they had been thrown slightly off balance, so to speak. The perfectly regular geometrical shape of the circle on the one hand, and freehand drawing on the other, which can never be entirely controlled, go against each other. The resulting friction, however, lends many of Antoni’s pictures a special dynamic and three-dimensional quality. Starting from the center of the picture, the systems of circles arranged next to and on top of each other develop into complicated patterns, which, as soon as you recognize them, dissolve and change yet again. Birgit Antoni often works with four, sometimes only three or two local hues. She often uses both the lighter and the darker variant of a shade as well as a complementary color, generating a play of positive and negative. Curiously, one is tempted to describe the shapes and patterns in Antoni’s pictures in human terms. They typically appear to be dancing, lively and boisterous. Some seem naughty or reckless, some talkative, others unobtrusive and withdrawn. Such an attribution of moods or even character traits might actually conform with the artist’s intentions, given the titles she assigns to her pictures: “Girl” or “Lady” (both 2003), but also first names like Gerti, Moni, Susi, Melissa, or – for two-piece pictures – double names like “Blanka and Blanka” (2007). Whether these names are in fact to be associated with real persons, or whether they were chosen because of their sound and structure, is left open. Both the dynamics and movements, which seem to increase the longer you look at Antoni’s pictures, and the shapes that are at times drawn like cartoon characters (cf. again “Blanka and Blanka”), bring to mind the medium of film, which is indeed the medium the artist comes from. Its diachronic, story-telling character is reflected in many elements of Antoni’s works: in the movements, the narrative, and in the developments within a certain period of time, namely the time that the viewer’s gaze moves across the picture.
Johannes Franzen’s photographs are based on hexadecimal data files: With them, the artist coordinated the (picto-)spatial allocation of the colors. Unlike his earlier works, where chance was allowed to play a dominant role, this series was created through the continuing adjustment between that which exists on the digital level (“per se”) and that which can be perceived optically. This mode of production alone has inscribed a perceptive analytical dimension on these most recent works. There is a hairline crack, which undermines the visible in its entirety and which Franzen brings to dance: he aims for nothing less than totality, a clearly identifiable red thread in his photographic work. By moving from the diachronic to the synchronic level, however, Franzen has turned attention to the structural conditions of human perception. Titled “4096² Colors,” the series points out the 16,777,216 different values which constitute the digitally depictable color range. Because each picture contains each of these color values exactly once, the viewer is confronted with the comprehensive inventory of the possibility of optical perception. A thoroughly paradoxical process is initiated: You see all the colors, but what do you see? Everything? Or more than that? Looking at the plane in its entirety, one notes color paths created by the combination of small squares of different shades. Almost intuitively, one steps forward to explore the interplay more closely. It turns out that the grid pattern of the color planes is repeated in the individual dots. At first it seems as if all the micro-units were the same; as soon as the eye “warms up,” however, a certain discriminatory power sets in, recognizing individual shades even in the color paths within the micro-units. Obviously, the artist aims less at the phenomenological analysis of color than at a precise differentiation between visual recognition, optical perception, and their processing through our perceptive faculties. The viewer is confronted with the paradox of visually perceiving totality, recognizing its single elements just as well, yet being unable to work out a clear picture. This inability to yield a definite image is also reflected in the fact that the totality of the colors can appear in very many different ways indeed.
John Hilliard lives and works in London and is connected with the English school of conceptual photography. Since as early as the 1970s, he has put geometrical patterns or cut-outs on simple photos, carefully adjusting geometrical form and content, to create vivid stories out of basic models – in the viewer’s imagination, that is.
With the colored works originating around the year 2002, he returned to playing with geometry once again. Different lighting settings, i.e. the use of different sources of light, make for very different shades on the same photographic paper, an effect which Hilliard utilizes to create second and third layers in real space.
Imi Knoebel’s connection with geometry seems to be on the most elementary level: she often uses basic shapes like rectangles and squares. Yet the resulting works are not basic at all, as Knoebel, like the other artists, explores the affect of color on the viewer and reflects on the conditions of perception. At a close look, the seemingly simple color-shapes begin to move, to pulsate, and the surfaces are everything but monochrome.
The view of the four artists together is a heterogeneous one, exploring the wide spectrum of possibilities in dealing with geometry today, though the medium of photography leans towards the scientific aspects of image construction. In both John Hilliard’s and Johannes Franzen’s pictures, optical laws play a dominant role and thus provide an additional “objectifying” instance. In this context, Imi Knoebel’s color-shapes and their fascinating effects on the viewer are cast in a new light. At the other end of the scale, Birgit Antoni explores the idea of the perfect geometrical form and the interplay of the colors in a myriad of ways, while strictly confining her means – canvas, paint, a very limited repertoire of shapes, plus years of practice at the artist’s hand. (translation by Simone Schede)