Jacob’s Ladder leads to the stars
In the matter of unified forms all artists reference, then assimilate their precursors language and economy of means. They play ‘chess’ with context, move in multiple directions, emulate means of production, add-in unquantifiable elements, and then conjure distinct iconographies.
They climb Jacob’s Ladder, step-by-step, until from the earthly realm, they reach the heavenly sphere of a mythological order, uniquely their own. Marcel Duchamp understood this very well by the time he went from cubism to ready-mades. Picasso famously said ‘a bad artist copies, a great artist steals’, which was a variation on T.S. Eliot’s, ‘a bad poet imitates a good poet steals’.
Appropriation artists well-know that to climb the ladder is to beg, borrow, and pilfer. Painters dialog with the classics, and the detritus of Pop culture, sculptors contend with the classicism of the pedestal, gravity, and physical space; photography with the ubiquity of the image, the demise of the analog and so on.
Folklore has it that there are seven steps on which to climb Jacob’s ladder. Its law of analogy is: as above, so below. This common fount of symbolism is stratified into various levels of orderly sequences. Where contemporary art is concerned, in practical terms its a mediation between structure and artistic license. In our era of cultural amnesia examples are many. For this exhibition we take liberty in our choice of artists and new fangled styles….
Anselm Reyle’s paint-by-numbers are motifs that self-referentially incorporate pictorial elements from his own previous works. They re-contextualize a universally standardized mid-20th century hobby kit into legitimate Pop icons. From Andy Warhol’s ‘Do It Yourself Landscape’ (1962), to early 1990’s Komar; Melamid, this series (executed instructional style) by Reyle also evokes the kitsch elements of Jeff Koon’s ‘Easy Fun’ cartoon mirrors (1999).
Kitsch in the high-art tradition is a strategy employed by Martin Eder to destabilize the viewer. Such highly bizarre tableaus are perhaps homage and satire of classical 17th century chiaroscuro painting. Portraying on-the-edge eroticism with surreal juxtapositions Eder pushes the envelope on bourgeois drawing room taste. An adorable fluffy cat is posed with a fish in a state of rigor mortis placed on crumpled paper. Perversely sublime and laced with acid humor he is an illusionist of vaguely familiar dark places.
Minimalism is not just the domain of the existential male. Liz Deschenes has climbed the ladder of the reductive trope through the mechanistic tenets of camera-less ‘photography’. Light and pure color are reflected and absorbed in photograms analogous to color field painting. Without reference to the material world the imageless impression is printed on light sensitive paper then mounted and presented on a support structure. Viewed as sculptural object its hung between the corner space of two walls giving the work ornamental associations.
The human figure with the double scythe is the eternal age-old symbol Uwe Henneken uses in his allegorical paintings on the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. The parable of the ‘Corn King’ creation myth represents the seasonal rotation of the crops and plant life that bloom, die, and are then replenished with a new ‘king’. The flowers symbolize the lavish splendor and power of life but also its transience. A series of mixed media bronze sculptures are the bewildered occupants of a boxed-in space climbing out of their limited enclosure.
Patterns of repetition are an inherent part of the organisms of existence with all of its structural underpinnings. Such is the case for Katja Strunz in life and art, where history reverberates in the very fabric of cultural memory. Spatial rhythm and Euclidean geometry defines her formalist installations of powder-coated steel folds wall-mounted in clusters. The industrial, machined aesthetic is a systematic structure appropriated from the milieu of archetypal Modernist icons and minimalism. While the forms remain true to their progenitors, Strunz subtly emphasizes surface texture and ‘flaws’ as a transgressive measure against their historically rigid codes.