New York

Hannes Brunner

Vera Engelhorn Gallery

Hannes Brunner manages to translate musical movement into static sculptural form. He creates casual groupings of paper-and-cardboard instruments that evoke sound unfettered by the constraints of orderly composition. Pausenstück (Intermission, 1988), the most powerful work in the show, is an entropic heap of paper keyboards, drums, wind instruments, guitars, and lyres, in parts and wholes, randomly strewn across folding chairs and loosely contained within a two-sided frame. The whole piece, from the layered curves of its almost cubist guitar to its leaping keyboards, suggests a musical jumble of motion and sound. Intermission here is not a silent respite but a joyous cacophony of instruments set free, a jazzy explosion in the concert hall. The papery elements seem light enough to rise like a pile of leaves and resettle in some completely different configuration, and ephemeral enough to last only as long as the music that inspires them.

Harfen, Vortragsuebung, Quartett, Zugabe, Floetisten (Harps, practice, quartet, encore, flutists, 1988) consists of various instruments constructed of tan-colored paper stitched together with string and suspended from five music stands protruding from the wall. The bulbous forms dangle like hams above the counter in a butcher’s shop. Threads are left hanging and the wooden frame of the harp remains exposed, contributing to the work’s disheveled, unfinished look. Scattered about the room was Familie der Horchsäulen (Family of the hark pillars, 1988), a group of freestanding sculptures made of hinged screens folded in irregular polygons. Snakelike swirls of newsprint covered in wax wriggle across the surfaces of the pillars, but they don’t manage to infuse much energy into these otherwise lifeless forms. Three works entitled Notenblatt (Sheet music, 1988) consist of dishcloths cut to create patterns resembling the five bars of a music staff; these patterns contrast with the gridded colors and textures of the cloths themselves. Visually unassuming, these pieces testify to Brunner’s ability to transform ordinary objects with the most economical of gestures.

Brunner’s sculptures are scrappy, roughly executed explorations that breathe life into mundane materials. Everything about them seems somewhat temporary, as though the artist will return any moment to rearrange the elements. Perhaps these sculptures are merely sketches done in preparation for some grander, more polished work. More likely, Brunner’s strength lies in the confidence that frees him to be indeterminate, to reserve the right to change his mind.

Lois E. Nesbitt