Stefan Höller

Galerie Luis Campaña

Pictures from the superior court in Düsseldorf—an unusual take for an art exhibition. The paintings of Stefan Höller speak as much to the viewer’s consciousness and attention as to his interest in contemporary (or historical) events in life, art, and politics. In these works Höller invokes Willy Spatz, Joseph Beuys, and Markus Wolf. Spatz was a late representative of the Düsseldorf school of painters. From 1887 to 1926, he was a professor at the academy there, and in 1913 he created a painting with scenes from German legal history for the large courtroom of the superior court. Beuys was a professor at the academy from 1961 to 1972. In 1958, for a competition for the facade of a new court building, he proposed the sculpture Sybilla/Justitia, which was rejected. The actual sculpture is now at the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, but a photograph of the rejected work hangs in the foyer of the court building. Beuys’ art also came into contact with the court with ever-increasing frequency in later years. The Beuys cases concerning the cleansed bathtub and the destroyed corner of fat at the academy were tried here.The last of this trio, Wolf, was the director of the office of party propaganda for the East German secret police. In 1993 he was convicted of treason and bribery in Düsseldorf.

The exhibition included 9 oil paintings hung on the first floor. They had various themes and showed the court foyer, an altered piece by George Grosz, an image of Charlemagne, and the Wolf trial-witness named Genscher. They stimulated the viewer’s interest in the context and background of the trial. Upstairs there were watercolors from the trial itself. On the front wall there was a picture of Justitia derived from the one in the foyer of the court. In the office area there was Modell Justitia and Troika signiert, by Wolf.

The particular connections among consciousness, interest, content, intentions, and quotes led the structural form of the exhibition to supersede each individual phenomenon without losing its content. This content is concerned not only with the definition of truth, but also with the divide between object and language in society. Höller's artistic and conceptual basis makes concrete the question of the truth contained in the varied media of painting, reportage, and documentation—all this at the site where truth is purportedly found. And the exhibition itself gains life from the semantically closed synthesis of all the images that record the right and wrong of the truth.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.