Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Digitial Issue of Fabrik

The new digital issue of Fabrik is online featuring Information at the Signal, my interview with Ed Ruscha! Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Julian Hoeber

Published in the November issue of ArtWeek

Julian Hoeber: All That is Solid Melts Into Air
Blum & Poe
September 6th through October 18th
By Jesi Khadivi

In Sartre’s seminal existential novel Nausea, a young historian is cast into conceptual upheaval when inanimate objects and everyday situations suddenly become alien and menacing, thus beginning an odyssey of dissolution, despair, and ultimately a revelatory reexamination of the nature of being. Julian Hoeber’s third solo exhibition at Blum and Poe, a meditation on psychology and nausea entitled All That is Solid Melts into Air, contains a kernel of this anxiety, but there is no crybabying over the fractured psyche; the crisis of fragmentation is instead embraced and cheekily explored through art historical bricolage. Hoeber’s Op inspired drawings and eviscerated bronze cast heads stylistically diverge from the visceral gore of his slasher influenced films and photographs, but his trademark dark humor shines through the coy restraint of his new body of work.

The works on paper exhibit a mélange of influences-- Abstract Expressionism, Outsider Art, Pop, and Conceptual Art references all elbow up against one another. Blue and red lines zip vertically through Ab Ex, while gouache erasures of the concentric circular pattern creates a rippling effect. I Don’t Care…, an Op send up of Lichtenstein’s Drowning Girl, is a taut example of Sartre’s “sweetish sickness.” It’s the most successful of Hoeber’s attempts at optical illusion and its reference to drowning is something many Americans can relate to given the current mortgage and banking crisis. Whether intentional or not, Hoeber’s persistent Op spirals and bronze heads riddled with puncture wounds are chillingly evocative of the economy’s downward spiral and our seemingly endless state of military engagement. A litany of anxieties could be ascribed to the work, but the artist does not explicitly articulate any. Hoeber’s work engages with malaise from a distance and functions more as an exploration of angst than an overwrought expression of it.

Hoeber flexes his latent gore muscles in a series of “shot, beaten, and bitten” bronze busts on mirrored pedestals which are equally as illusory as the drawings. While the heads have been brutally pummeled and pumped full of lead, for the most part their faces are curiously dispassionate, as if they were killed during a moment of meditative contemplation or sexual ecstasy. The classical presentation and rarified material deny the adrenaline that could be derived from a more active representation of violence, yet (even more creepily) allow the material results of brutality to be appreciated at an aesthetic distance.

The artist clearly embraces what he calls “postmodern silliness.” In his artist statement he proudly proclaims himself a “tube” that has “eaten up all that dead stuff. Cooked it. Chewed it up and made some shit out of it…chewed up history, digested it and pushed out something which although stinking a little of death, has a certain whole synthesized, digested quality.” Lest we get too bogged down in high mindedness, it’s important to remember that Hoeber can be funny. Really funny. In his drawing Stupid Face, the glowering visage of an aging hipster hovers over yet another concentric circle and several works on paper have a knowingly juvenile fixation on breasts. Yet his work succeeds not because of his clowning, but because aesthetic and cultural rigor are conflated with jocularity.