press release

The oeuvre of the Dutch artist Bas Jan Ader who has resurfaced in the contemporary art discourse in recent years represents a historical reference point in the concept of the exhibition "hinterlands". Against the backdrop of his particularly topical work, a look at the more recent production of a younger generation of artists such as Matti Braun, Stefan Sandner and Daniel Pflumm reveals perspectives that to date have hardly been taken note of in the reception of their works. Here the issue is the way formal strategies merge with a thematic interest in the constructive nature of subjectivity. Bas Jan Ader's oeuvre is marked by an aesthetic of strictly formalized representations of feelings. While he assimilated the rigid documentary aesthetic typical for the concept art of the sixties for his works, he ignored its negation of artistic subjectivity.

On the contrary, Ader's works are accompanied by an aesthetic of (personal) failure. If he had himself managed to flee the world in such mysterious fashion (in 1975 he set sail from Cape Cod in a small boat with the intention of crossing the Atlantic in 60 days; in 1976 his wrecked ship was found, and he himself remained missing) one could associate with him the tragic-comedy of Buster Keaton. His four-part work "On the Road to a New Neo Plasticism" points in this direction. In a performance he cites the strict formalism of Mondrian, a representative of modernism who made the dictum of form, an autonomous artistic idiom, extremely enduring with his reductionist compositions. In 1971, the lanky Bas Jan Ader threw himself, dressed entirely in black, onto a blue blanket that had been carefully laid on the ground. His extended arms and legs resulted in the typical Mondrian-like grid structure, two plastic containers in red and yellow completed the desperate and depleted gesture which Ader used to mock his spiritual fathers.

The works on view in this exhibition can be located within this field between a rigidly formalized concept and emotional involvement: Stefan Sandner's reference to Kenneth Noland's work "Ova Ray" from 1976 stands out for its precise reconstruction of the form of the canvas. The citation of a style whose uniqueness has meanwhile almost certainly been praised in any number of standard art history books - something that invariably triggers off a crisis in contemporary artists - is ironically undermined by the title: "Dah-uh-ah-uh-aht". Evidently, the "ingenuity" of many avantgarde artists has opened so many wounds in one's own understanding as cultural worker that the only salvation is to turn to popular culture. In a 300 x 900 cm large wall-/text piece, Sandner uses "ASK BOB" to cite a page of readers' questions taken from "MuscleMag International - The `What's New´ Magazine of Bodybuilders".

Daniel Pflumm's focused oeuvre could only evolve after he had experienced everything that pop culture has to offer. The outgrowth of the lively club culture of Berlin in the nineties, Pflumm's light boxes appear to be derivatives of a different life within the context of art. His formal idiom addresses our culture of memory, referring to what accompanies us in our everyday life (advertisement, video clips, etc.), which is unable to claim a place for itself in the so-called high-brow culture. Matti Braun draws attention with his ensemble of reflective blocks, mirrors and styrofoam balls. What appears to be a strictly formalized sculptural piece, also referencing theoretical highlights of the Sixties (buzzword: context theory) ultimately proves to be paying homage to everyday culture. The latter, however, vanishes in the monstrous representation in which it undergoes a process of abstraction. The "material" (the styrofoam balls alluding to cocaine) can only be caught after subtle, keen scrutiny.

The stringent formalism one might first notice in the works exhibited in "hinterlands" has only one message: the viewer is asked to step behind the form and to grasp contemporary artistic production as an expression of individual, personal action.


only in german

mit Bas Jan Ader, Matti Braun, Daniel Pflumm, Stefan Sandner