Humbert Kiecol

Sammlung Boros

The Hamburg artist Hubert Kiecol has become well known within the German art scene in recent years for his miniature concrete architectural units—houses and stairways. Reducing the sculptural statement to a minimum, they represented a countertendency to the hypertrophic forms in so many contemporary paintings and environmental installations. At the same time, through architecture’s repertory of familiar forms, the works established a connection with the public sphere. But this very connection was also a weakness, for the basic architectural forms, which were given their own autonomous value, took on the character of models. Thus all of this work had something of an anecdotal quality, verging on the trivial and precious, despite Kiecol’s deliberate efforts to counteract such a tendency by the way he installed the objects in grand isolation within the exhibition space.

In his new works shown here (from 1987), Kiecol has largely eliminated this narrative element. Two tall, narrow quadratic steles, apparently identical in format, were placed opposite one another in two adjoining rooms. Each stele is fluted on two opposing sides, and they were positioned so that a fluted side of one faced an unfluted side of the other. However, on closer inspection, what at first sight seemed identical proved to be somewhat different: the flutings on one column extend its entire length, while on the other they stop 4 inches short of the bottom, and the number of flutings also varies slightly.

The columns are made of a polished, poured-concrete material whose surface looks now brown, now gray. This gives them a taut elegance that heightens the precise aura that they radiate. The tension between their similarities and differences emphasized their self-referentiality and their relationship to the surrounding space. But at the same time, one was reminded of the traditional function of the stele and the cultural history of the column, from antiquity to Brancusi (and beyond).

The drawings that were included in the show suggest the three-dimensionality of Kiecol’s sculpture in the two-dimensionality of black shadow-forms. One of these drawings, Treppe (Stairway), was made on a piece of newspaper that had death announcements, an ad for “Smokers’ Therapy,” and ads for doctors and clinics. The selection of this background underlines Kiecol’s desire to move his works out of the purely self-reflective sphere and into the context of real life. A kind of dialogue developed out of the contrast between the drawings and the two steles here, with the autonomous form of the sculptures placed against a background of social reality. It is a theme in progress, about becoming and disintegrating.

Wolfgang Max Faust

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.