Hubert Scheibl

Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac / Kunstverein

“The soft-footed images that always sneak around us amidst the din, their ears open wide, however fast we may run—one eye that sees, the other that feels . . . .” Hubert Scheibl places these words beneath two photographs in the 1989 book Blind Compass, edited by Markus Brüderlin. They indicate one approach to Scheibl’s world. One photograph shows the artist as he walks up the step to the elevator in the Gründerzeit foyer of the building that contains his studio; the other is taken from the same perspective, only the artist is missing, like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. The viewer is faced with deciding whether to follow the rabbit. Here, in the isolation of his studio, Scheibl has been drawing together fragments of the outside world for years, recasting them in his paintings, where time and place have lost their importance as determinants of human action and being. This is Scheibl’s original contribution, and it may seem too filled with pathos, but we are entering a world in which a new set of laws rules.

Art, such as Scheibl’s informal painting, is not easily translated into words. Concepts like harmony and dissonance and comparisons to music are more apt here than is the discourse of art criticism. Brüderlin has written about the similarities of Scheibl’s work to music. But one cannot simply make correspondences between color and musical tones. Scheibl works with “color spaces,” which place the viewer into a particular mood. This is especially evident in the large-format paintings on view at the Kunstverein. Colors and forms rise up from a preobjective state, only to return to it again. In his newest diptychs, on view at Ropac gallery, like XR 3, 1991, or XR 7, 1991, the experience of space is intensified through the tension between the two individual parts. The narrow rectangle marks the foreground optically, while the cool colors of the second canvas draw the viewer into the depth of the image. Thus one feels drawn back and forth between a clearly defined reality and an indefinable world of dreams. One can also view this as a metaphor for the cleft between the desire for an unlimited narcissism, as Donald Kuspit writes, and the desire to communicate to the outside world. The latter is attainable only through a common experience of reality based in the world of objects.

Peter Nesweda

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.