Martin Honert

Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle

Martin Honert’s sculptures are a form of insistence: readable at first glance, they remain enigmatic nonetheless. Their banality, their insignificance, their very origin (the artist’s childhood in Bottrop, a coal-mining town in Germany) should leave us cold, instead, they do not cease to intrigue us. An enormous faux-wood starling with multicolored feathers was affixed to the wall of the gallery, like a childhood memory of a stunned starling surprised on its branch. A mundane electric transformer, a hiding place for the children of Bottrop, was planted in the middle of the gallery, on a green floor of verdant grass. On the ceiling, a luminous circular lamp represented a ring of children playing at treasure hunt, looking at their hidden treasure at the bottom of a hole. In the window of the gallery were two young altar boys, charming but a bit too wise, too adult, to be sincere.

These heteroclitic and incongruous objects, there visions of childhood with no apparent connection, evince a diffuse malaise that contrasts with the care and precision of their technical realization. These “false” sculptures, three-dimensional images constructed of hollow polyester, interpret the child’s take on things: strangeness, conviviality, playfulness, fascination with the banal, deformation of the real. But there is more, it is not only what the child sees, but also what the adult—the gallery-goer, fan of contemporary art—doesn’t want to see: his own persistent immaturity. “If adults smell immaturity in someone,” notes Witold Gombrowicz, “they soon attack him, they peck at him like swans peck at a duck, they will not let their nests be invaded by an orphan from the world they have long since rejected.”

The strange presence of Honert’s pieces is integral to the work’s constitutive immaturity, which silently battles the world of adults—the world that adheres to things and to plain, homogeneous, coherent meaning. The world of childhood, Honert’s partial, subjective, and broken world is no Disneyland. It is an orphaned world, devoid of the benevolent paternity of meaning. A world of pure event, without origin, without depth. A convivial world in which everything is played on the surface, in which otherwise nothing is clear or irreversible.

The immaturity of these pieces arises from a reversible mimesis: a kind of excessive faithfulness to representation, which at the same time betrays it. These reliefs, these emptied sculptures belong to a world without weight; a world of childhood that discards depth and refuses to participate in the game. A world where all the effects are played on the surface in a false adhesion and a silent betrayal. A world where everything is just so. As with the two altar boys, too assiduously rendered to be believed, and the starling, too well-made to emulate its model, in these immature sculptures the materials are just so. The polyester of the altar boys imitates the whiteness of their innocence, that of the starling makes it seem that the bird is carved of wood. And again, all the adult illusions that we have invested in contemporary art begin to vacillate in these blocks of persistent immaturity.

Olivier Zahm

Translated from the French by Diana C. Stoll.