Leni Hoffmann

Galerie Bob van Orsouw

Leni Hoffmann’s installations are a kind of interactive sculpture that depend on the points where the space, the materials chosen, and the viewer intersect. Although she explicitly plays on the tradition of painting, her works have more to do with David Hammons’ snow balls than with Abstract Expressionism, since she also uses materials that are provocative in their impermanence as well as seemingly not worthy of an artist’s consideration. One might consider them easily formed conversation pieces. As in her other site-specific works, she used plastilene, a kind of modeling clay for children. It is colorful, easily modeled, and does not become hard; therefore, it is not a lasting material. Here she used an immense quantity of this material—700 kilograms—and had it specially made in screaming colors for this installation.

Her intervention was not limited to the gallery space: through the partitioned office she referenced its previous life as a part of a factory complex. She had the dividing wall of glass, aluminum, and plastic reinstalled upside-down, with the glass windows toward the floor and the plastic toward the ceiling. On a right-angled section she applied pink plastilene with her thumb; there was another area in orange at the end of the gallery.

This procedure was extremely labor intensive, and its effect was surprising. Looking into the gallery through the glass wall was like looking through glass that had been painted. The degree of transparency of the glass changed according to the amount of light. If one moved, one became part of a kinetic installation, and one could observe how the plastilene came to resemble a relief.

The colors reflected and magnified the factory environment. The orange took up the coloration of the brick facade; the pink on the glass wall that would formerly have separated the head of the factory from his secretary evoked eroticism and the tactile—but only from one side of the glass pane. Next to this color, the dark green bottom of the wall seemed almost provocatively decent and was reminiscent of the sterility and anesthetized peace of an operating room.

In a hallway of the cellar, the installation continued with a plastilene floor covering. Every visitor left an impression on it—art as pressure, printing as pressure, impression, tracing. Hoffmann used these ideas in one of her texts in which she played with the concept of the daily newspaper. The title of her Zurich installation Dis’n pointed toward this cycle of consumption. This slang word has many meanings and can also be an acoustic signal. Hoffmann reduced her work to form and color and their social connotations in order to discuss the transferral and production of energy.

Claudia Jolles

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.