Hermann Pitz

Galerie Albert Baronian

In this show entitled Travaux récents (auto-portraits y compris) (Recent Works [including self-portraits]), Hermann Pitz has assembled a series of pieces that reveal his fascination with the way in which art can reflect various ways of seeing. Reflection is the operative concept animating Pitz’s work, given his particular emphasis on materials used to produce optical distortions.

In Selbst (Self, 1990), a group of clear, glasslike resin forms displayed on the floor resemble teardrops or raindrops. Describing an earlier version of the piece, Pitz explains, “Since I was a child, I’ve thought of drops of water as magnifying lenses; the taut surfaces were always like a riddle to me. This magnification has nothing to do with Pop Art; it’s more about clarifying the variability of this optical phenomenon through changes in the vantage point of the viewer.”

This concern with surfaces and the reproduction, or revision, of images may also be seen in a series of pieces that revolve around the central figure of a souvenirlike object picturing a man in tourist garb with a pack strung over his shoulder, looking through the viewfinder of a camera. The work originated in a piece called Gleisdreieck, 1980, in which Pitz placed a miniature cable car on a wire suspended over the heads of the commuters in a Berlin subway station. Standing at the open door of the car was the same man taking a picture. A photograph of this work is included in this exhibition and functions as a point of reference around which much of the other work here revolves. Pitz cast hundreds of small figures from the Berlin piece and placed them in a series of incongruous positions. In one work, also called Selbst, 1990, light and dark tin pieces of various sizes are distributed around a chessboard. Another piece with the same title situates 25 concrete mounds around the gallery floor. Each has a hole in it, where the metal figure might have been fixed. The only figure that is actually attached is covered by a glass dome, as if it is some sort of vulnerable specimen. Finally, there is a photo of the artist himself, Pitz vu par Kleinefenn (Pitz seen by Kleinefenn, 1990), got up in the same cap and outfit as the tourist on the souvenir. Plays on the conventions of the self-portrait and on notions of originality and authenticity animate all of Pitz’s works. If his pieces refer to the “self” at all, they do so through a process of intricate refraction.

Another group of pieces is more directly related to the phenomenon of magnification. In Submarine, 1986–90, a group of small packages is arranged on the floor. The boxes feature a design based on a map of the world. Above them is situated a magnifying glass, through which the viewer may isolate particular details. In another work, Deutsche Bank, 1988, a vase of water is used to reflect a map of a German city, and the word “bank” in the title also refers to a park bench via its double meaning in German. Whether magnifying hidden images or reducing objects to miniature scale, Pitz’s sculptures consistently highlight the variable nature of perception, a variability that necessarily applies to any attempt to image oneself.

Michael Tarantino