Heimo Zobernig

Galerie Anselm Dreher

Heimo Zobernig’s exhibition can be considered a summary of his artistic thinking since the early ’80s. These sculptures, which the artist refers to as “things,” look like an open box, or like a wallpiece, or like a bench. Zobernig combines the esthetic (manual execution, originality, and authenticity) with the everyday, functional object.

There was one work in each of the four gallery rooms; an open-ended cubic “box” (a multiple of five), a “bench,” a “wall piece,” and “a group” of five upright parallelopipeds open at the front. Apart from the last work the interior of which is covered with black paint and the bench which is unpainted, all the other works are white, sharing the same paint used to cover the gallery walls. Two are made of particle board, and their surfaces are covered almost entirely with white wall paint. In previous works Zobernig left the lower section of these unpainted—undone, lifting the works from the anonymity of perfect craftsmanship without implying an allegiance to the Modernist or Minimalist fetishization of the surface.

Zobernig is not an artist who satisfies our desire as consumers, be it our hunger for a new art object or our desire to see new art forms. Nor is he an artist who tries to cure us of horror vacui. His artistic practice reflects an interest in the object that does not end in overproduction or in the feeling that it would contribute further to the “noise” in an art world already overcrowded with objects.

It is precisely this “noisiness” of presentational strategies that forms the backdrop to Zobernig’s work. Of course, his sculptures can and do exist outside the exhibition space, but outside it they appear mute. It is only after they have been brought into a particular room—for Zobernig a room is not a neutral architectural shell—that they begin to participate in contemporary discourse on art. Still, his works are not completely subsumed into the art system. He does not aim to achieve an identification between object and place.

Contrary to many contemporary artists who suppress a Modernist heritage (ironically a rejection of tradition had already occured in Modernism), Zobernig does not forget the past. One cannot today, as Zobernig is aware, work as if le Corbusier, Adolf Loos, Georges Vantoongerlo, or Kasimir Malevich never existed; nor can one work as if Robert Ryman’s work does not exist. Zobernig’s practice presumes a consciousness of Modernism’s self-referentiality, the seriality of Minimalism, and the self-reflexivity of Conceptual art. He makes a detour from these practices by neither repeating their original attitudes nor by quoting their existing formal repertoires. His artistic practice does not suggest that something (“less”) is a container of something else (“more”). His work is not equivalent to its spatial context, nor is the spatial context equivalent to his work.

Bojana Pejic

Translated from the Serbo-Croatian by Rebecca Black.