17. January 2021

Erika Hock - Female Fame


Erika Hock – Female Fame

With works from the collection by Myriam Bat-Yosef, Gerlinde Beck, Dorota Buczkowska, Ingrid Dahn, Anna Debska, Matschinsky-Denninghoff, Madeleine Dietz, Lena Henke, Rebecca Horn, Melanie Manchot, Anne Pöhlmann, Man Ray, Germaine Richier, Tisa von der Schulenburg, Brigitte Schwacke, Rosemarie Trockel, Nico Joana Weber

Glaskasten is immersed in colour. Through the window panes, the visitor can see dazzling coloured curtains made of threads, with fluid shapes and progressions of colour. Comic-like eyes look at you again and again, and even a mouth is discernible. You are drawn into the building by their seductive feel, and by the question of what they conceal. Once you have entered, you can walk through the semi-transparent curtains of thread, letting them slip through your hands, making them flicker. They are straight, suspended in wave or circular shapes, and they restructure the exhibition space. Niches and corridors emerge, offering unexpected visual axes onto works from the collection that Erika Hock integrates into her exhibition here. The coloured pedestals for the sculptures, also designed by Hock, feature a vertical grooved structure that evokes the thread structure of the curtains. Despite of their idiosyncratic form, these pedestals respond to the work they hold up, adding something of the kind as well. Hock creates a new space through her interpositions, unleashing in the viewer a shift in perspective vis-à-vis the familiar.

Hock describes some of her works as ‘hosting structures’ – structures that seek collaboration with another work and in this way can create something larger than themselves. Along the lines of working with found footage in film, she incorporates other works of art into her own work, creating something new in the process. The individual works are bathed in the intensity of the colours, which presents them in a different light, the effects of their surfaces changed. Hock creates lots of small stages for her protagonists, embedding them in a novel landscape and making them part of a larger narrative. The beholder becomes a part of this network, becoming viewer and performer at the same time before the watchful eyes of the curtains. The experience of wandering through this space manifests itself in memory in the form of a kind of assemblage, its mood borne by Hock’s ensemble of shapes, colours and materialities.

In this work, Hock opted to include exclusively works by female artists from the collection at Skulpturenmuseum Glaskasten Marl, ranging from post-war sculpture to contemporary art. She thus draws attention to the structural imbalance in the presentation of male and female artists. This occurs against the backdrop of the fact that, as in most art museums, a relatively small portion of the collection in Marl consists of works by female artists: For a woman to be able to receive training at all as a visual artist at a state academy of art is an achievement of the 20th century: Art academies did not open their doors to women until after the First World War; by 1925, the proportion of self-employed artists who were women had increased to 20%. It was not until the 1990s that a steady increase in women’s share of visual artists, to 43.4%, could be observed. Urban budgets for the purchase of new works are falling at the same time, however. Around the year 2000, there were still more purchases of works of art that had been made by men than by women, with art by men ‘trading for prices around 10% higher on average.’[1] The role of women as artists thus reflects the history of women’s emancipation. Hock selected well-known and unknown items for the exhibition; many of the works were taken from the warehouse for this occasion.

The tour of the exhibition begins with a surrealistic-looking constellation: Positioned behind a curtain hung in waves are Dorota Buczkowska’s (1971) Python (2012) and Myriam Bat-Yosef’s (*1931) Fer Femelle (Hommage à Man Ray) (1964). The latter is placed opposite the work Cadeau (1921/1963) by Man Ray (1890-1976). In the case of Fer Femelle and Cadeau alike, the point of departure for each work is a classic clothes iron, the kind that was heated on a stovetop. Man Ray glued the surface of the iron with nails, while Bat-Yosef painted the entire iron with colourful organic shapes, its centre reminiscent of the shape of a vagina. The harmonising pedestals make the works appear as if they are in dialogue with one another. With her Hommage, Bat-Yosef confronts the work by Man Ray with a female counterpart, an entirely different interpretation of the same object.

Dorota Buczkowska’s (*1971) dotted Python lies on a pedestal that consists of three circular shapes for which the work is nearly too long and too thick. For her exhibition at the Glaskasten in 2012, Buczkowska developed the term ‘interror’ – a neologism composed of the English terms ‘interior’ and ‘terror’ that could mean essentially ‘an interior explosion’. The being sewn of and filled with fabric has burst open at the most voluminous point – exploded, perhaps – with a pink and strangely organic-looking substance oozing out. Like an overgorged and injured snake, the creature thrones upon Hock’s coloured pedestal which, with its playful contours and motley colours, is reminiscent of a circus stage that could well itself be an integral part of this work by Buczkowska.

The visitor can take a seat alongside Tisa von der Schulenburg’s (1903-2001) Albert Einstein busts, both the final bronze and the plaster mould (undated; acquired in 1962). Hock combined this pedestal with a bench to permit the beholder to sit down face-to-face with Einstein. This situation creates an unaccustomed proximity not only to the sculpture itself but to a stranger’s face in the coronavirus era. Tisa von der Schulenburg actually met Einstein in Berlin in the 1920s when she was a student at the Berlin Academy. Most of her works, however, were created during her time in the convent of St. Ursula in Dorsten, which she joined as Sister Paula in 1950.

Nico Joana Weber’s (*1983) film Markasit (2014) accompanies a young woman through the brutalist concrete architecture, the collections of scientific material and the rural surroundings of Ruhr-Universität-Bochum. Over the course of the film, the mineral marcasite brings about a transformation in the protagonist. Like the architecture of Glaskasten Marl, the rooms at the university are a testimony to the utopian visions of their origins, yet after just a few decades in existence they already look outdated. Weber’s works interrogate the relationship between the human being and his or her natural and architectural surroundings; at the same time, her works are often concerned with the status quo of modernist architecture.

Rosemarie Trockel’s (*1952) oeuvre is incredibly diverse: Since rising to fame in the 1980s with her machine-made knitted imagery, she has continued to advance the feminist discourse around art with video works, installations and objects. Entitled Guru (1983), this sculpture depicts an androgynous being. It sits cross-legged, with its fingers interlaced. With its long limbs and a width of 2.5 meters, it looks insect-like and fragile; it is also moulded from plaster. The black colour irregularly applied to the work makes it look as if smeared with mud, like a mysterious being that is not of this world.

Warsaw-based artist Anna Debska (1929-2014) was known for her sculptural depictions of animals. For a long time, Taurillon (after 1960) was on public display in Marl; now, the sculpture is nestled in a colourfully bright curtain niche that gives its materiality an entirely different effect. The porous-surfaced sculpture in concrete depicts a small, lean bull stretching its right hind leg forward in an oddly straight pose. This creates a horizontal focus that contrasts with the upright positioning of the thin legs and the proud demeanour of the head.

In recent years, Director Georg Elben has increasingly acquired works by female artists for the Glaskasten collection, among these Johanna Reich’s (*1977) video performance Weiße Räume/ M (2015) – as well as the video by Nico Joana Weber. The film shows sculptures in the public space: A white canvas that Reich has positioned behind the sculptures makes them briefly appear to be standing in a museum setting. The simulated white cube offers a fresh view of the all-too-famous artworks in the urban space of Marl, all of which are part of the museum.

The artist couple Brigitte and Martin Matschinsky-Denninghoff have been collaborating since the 1950s. They are known for their steel pipe sculptures, one of which is entitled Naturmaschine (1969) and stands on Creiler Platz in front of the Glaskasten Marl. Thanks to the yellow and blue pedestal designed by Hock, the sculpture Attika (1965) is transformed into a shape that looks not very rigid and architectural but organic and playful instead, like a bouquet of flowers. With the pedestal echoing the grooved structure of the sculpture’s surface, the two seem to coalesce into a single unit.

In Don Quichotte (1950/51), Germaine Richier (1902-1959), the grande dame of post-war sculpture, created a fragile-looking creature. She paints a tragic picture of Cervantes’ protagonist Don Quixote: Its greatly extended limbs make the figure look emaciated, yet it stands quite upright, its head raised high, the right hand raised up as if to admonish, the left arm awkwardly spread and resting on a kind of spear. Upon closer inspection, it turns out that the work is a material collage made of branches and wood that makes its surface appear injured.

Ingrid Dahn’s (*1939) sculptures Von Innen nach Außen (1965) and Dringt nach Außen (1975) address the human being as sender and recipient along with its manifold spatial relationships. Dahn often investigates the female figure, experimenting with its structure. Her sculptures start from the ground and open upwards. She often uses Plexiglas as a material, as she can use it to vary transparencies. The point of departure is the vertical axis, to which various shells, directions and shapes are appended. Varying perspectives reveal completely new features of the sculpture.

The work entitled Yes, I’m Pregnant! (2014) by Lena Henke (*1982) is a photo love story created on the occasion of Project 25/25/25 to mark the anniversary of Kunststiftung NRW in Marl. The idea emerged from the fact that groups of young people in Marl often spend their free time around Creiler Platz. In this case, however, the protagonists were represented by sculptures from the Glaskasten collection. The photo love story appeared in the form of a booklet and a series of posters. Henke painstakingly arranged the real sculptures in the public space to stage the story of Maria, a 16-year-old girl with an unplanned pregnancy. Maria takes the form of Marino Marini’s Danzatore (1954).

Artist Rebecca Horn (*1944) is a choreographer of sculptural events. Whether in film, sculpture or installation, she links object and event with one another to create stories. This was also the case with her work La Ferdinanda (ca. 1979): In a flat wall box made of glass lies a bird’s nest with two eggs; this would be reminiscent of Duchamp’s readymades if not for a faded text on the reverse of the glass box. The text tells of a species of bird from West Africa that makes its way across the Atlantic every year. At a certain point over the vast Atlantic Ocean, the birds begin to circle, performing a strange dance. ‘At some prehistoric juncture, there must have been an island here that served as a rest stop or destination for the bird’s ancestors. Collective memory also seems to be passed along, reminding the birds, year after year, of what once was. They dance around the lost island.’[2]

Brigitte Schwacke’s Stuhl (1987) may not be visible at first, depending on the direction from which one approaches it. That is because it is a filigree drawing in space. Shaped from alloyed standing wire, the result is a fragile, floating structure that changes depending on the viewing angle. The outlines of a chair are clearly visible against the white wall. Frequently installed hovering in space, Schwacke’s sculptures  push their own genre to its limits: The Stuhl navigates between the realms of sculpture and drawing. “Her creations enclose emptiness and exclude it at the same time.”[3]

Madeleine Dietz’s (*1953) sculptures combine material contrasts. The materials she typically works with are steel, as a cultural product, and earth, which she associates with nature. In order to create pieces of earth that she can layer atop one another, she enriches earth with water, which she then spreads out and leaves to dry. Ohne Titel (1992/93) consists of a steel frame, open at the top, that serves as a container for the pieces of earth. Her work revolves around the elementary opposites of fragment and whole, rigidity and life, nature and art, and forgetting and remembrance. Based on these fundamental questions, she has already created many works for sacral spaces that are now used as altars and monuments.

Anne Pöhlmann’s (*1979) Gesammelte Zufälle (2017) arose through her examination of individual sculptures within the collection, such as by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Rudolf Belling and Paul Gauguin. She transfers the sculptures into two-dimensionality by capturing them photographically from different perspectives in front of a white studio background. The serial property of photography simulates the movement of the beholder and then manifests itself in certain perspectives and details. With the print in a large format on white fabric and then loosely pinned to the wall, the sense of the documentary vanishes, and the images of the sculptures take on lives of their own.

Gerlinde Beck (1930-2006) describes her works as spatial choreographies that gradually detach themselves from the static form and transition over into movement. Hängende Figur (1958) resembles a satellite floating weightlessly through outer space. The antenna-like prickly rods are held together by filigree shells ?? perhaps a filigree sheath?. They are remnants of a form that no longer has any mass; Beck describes her works as “lines like tracks of movement.”[4]

At the end of the tour through the exhibition, we encounter Erika Hock’s (*1981) work, Rosa (2020) – a lamp that also consists of thread curtains. It completes the salon-like ensemble of curtains, seating and pedestals that constitute the mood of the exhibition and create a sense of intimacy in this public place. Hock’s ‘hosting structure’ Continental Shelf (2011), located at the centre of the Glaskasten, a room unto itself and separated by glass, in which focal works from the collection are usually on display, is empty. Only Melanie Manchot’s film Cornered Star (2018) is projected in large format. One sees a spotted thoroughbred horse, usually standing still in at dawn in the apocalyptically empty city centre of Marl, with only his ears moving. There is something magical about it, this beautiful horse in the brutalist urban landscape. Standing still, it briefly looks like an equestrian statue. The horse moves in a timeless space that tells the story of Marl: Of the city’s wealth in the 1950s, Marl as a pioneer of urban planning, of the numerous sculptures in the public space, and of the economic decline with the end of the mining industry and the isolation of the city centre – it can all be seen here, grey in grey.

                                                                                                         Anna Brohm


[1] http://www.kulturrat.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/FraueninKunstundKultur2.pdf [4 February 2021]

[2] Brandt, Käthe: Tanz um die verlorene Insel: https://taz.de/Tanz-um-die-verlorene-Insel/!510781/ [4 February 2021]

[3] Weber, Claudia: Dreidimensionale Raumzeichnung: https://brigitte-schwacke.com/texte/ [4 Febrary 2021]

[4] http://www.gerlinde-beck.de/werk/bewegung.php, [4 February 2021]