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Henning Bohl, Namenloses Grauen

Casey Kaplan Gallery
525 West 21st Street, 212-645-7335
March 29 - April 28, 2012
Reception: Thursday, March 29, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

For the last few months these pictures have been my monsters of the week. They form the consequences of the decisions I have taken and these consequences have an afterlife of consequences, which I have had to face. So, I accepted the fate that these fictions of mine have become truth – and more – actual materializations; that I have, from the depth of my windowless studio, unleashed another artwork upon a world already crowded with others.

These pictures are not about painting. They are also not about being monochrome, despite the fact that some of them are monochrome paintings. The ones that are painted, I painted as my own assistant for economical reasons but also out of interest. You can, if you have the taste for it, look out for an artist “touch” but it was merely a paint job: I p..painted those because there was no other way. These pictures are about the reasons why they are what they are. The moment I decided to consider those reasons, they consumed the entire process and formed a net of logical steps and necessities that created a path, which I followed.

And this path has led me here:

If one really has to lay out the reasons in front of the audience, it would usually go like this: to apply certain strategies of conceptualization to your object, enhance the cultural capital of your source, connect it with what you have done and thus create meaning – and value.

For example: I found a box of tape dispensers in the shape of doughnuts over a year ago in Japan and for me they do form a perfectly created mass-produced fiction. It’s obvious that this form is ideal for its function, as it is able to fully encapsulate the roll of tape, and in doing so keep it clean from dust. But to further admit (the people from Scotch Tape Lab admitted…) that the product looks like a doughnut, and to then match the color of the product with the colors of the different flavors you might find in the icings of a real doughnut shop, is what made this surreal fiction become a rare reality for me.

As I have said, reasons come in like doughnuts and they lead the way. Once the doughnuts took place on the pictures, there needed to be a carpet to connect the paintings to a space and this space couldn’t be the gallery as it was. It had to have a layer of “icing” on the floor, just as the canvases had to have a layer of “icing”, which is the paint. The paint references the color scheme of the tape dispensers that surround them, which refers to the color and flavor of the icing on the doughnuts. So the carpet had to have the color of one of the paintings, and there were only so many colors to choose from.

The same is true for the fabric that depicts a model of the universe that is, rightly so, without center. Weirdly enough, it replaces our common understanding of outer space as an endless expansion of different parts with a map of endlessly expanding, repeating numbers of the same limited parts. This draws a parallel to the possibilities and limitations of cultural expression we find these days. This fabric, if divided into square partitions, shows four times the planet Earth. And in focusing on this part by cutting a square around these planets into the square partition of the possibly endless roll of fabric, we get an outtake that organizes its main subjects along diagonal crossing lines towards the outer frame instead of pointing to its center. In following this already given direction, it was only logical to emphasize this movement and add to it by using objects that orbit around that empty center on the outer side of the stretcher – to build a virtual frame around that frame. (In a similar but reversed logic the square monochrome pictures point to an empty center and carry their raison d´etre towards the outside.)

Today, similar reasons that legitimize art are often to be found, whether it is: the size of a Manet in relation to the size of a monochrome painting, the insight that two complimentary colors on two paintings would mix into the grey tones you usually give to your other pictures (to stay in the discourse of younger monochromatic paintings), or the reasons one might have to reproduce the sandaled foot of the Statue of Liberty, or any of the many other reasons that can always be found to drive a little bit further down the road.

Older monochromes, as I maybe tend to misunderstand them, seem to me an attempt to deny all of this. An attempt to deny all of these relational, referential and legitimizing aspects. Or better yet, they build a negative dialectical approach next to it. In my fantasy, they resemble very much the impossible task that a writer of cosmic horror fiction faces – to describe entities that have no structural, organic or functional resemblance to anything from our world yet have to carry out the means of their own intentions (that is to hail and kill). In an attempt to focus exactly on the limitations of the imagination, the best of the writers and painters of these genres create a hill of denial that offers a precise perspective upon the valley of the limitations of human existence, first of all the limitations of gravity.

Henning Bohl, Zürich, March 2012
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