New York

Kocheisen + Hullmann

Annina Nosei Gallery

With tongue-in-cheek innocence, the artistic duo Thomas Kocheisen and Ulrike Hullmann disclose the unspeakable banality of the modern world. Unlike Baudelaire, who struggled to convince himself that the new mundaneness was implicitly “metaphysical”, Kocheisen + Hullmann no longer seek to transcend banality by turning it into something magical. Like many of us, they accept the disenchanted lot of being modern: disillusionment as the price of enlightenment.

Underneath the routine, almost mechanical descriptiveness and conceptual wit of these works lies a ruthless realism. Kocheisen + Hullmann choose a commonplace site (a slice of their world), photograph it, then retire to separate studios to paint and sometimes sculpturally reconstruct it from the photograph. Naturally enough, each comes up with a slightly different work. The two works are then exhibited together to form a kind of diptych, and each seems to cancel rather than reinforce the other. Side by side, the pieces lose any claim to objectivity and become almost hallucinatory—which is the “offprint” of the other? With modest irony and in a representational mode, these works continue the project of Modernist negation that Theodor Adorno felt abstraction embodied. Kocheisen + Hullmann’s brand of “negation” is one that, in keeping with Adorno’s views, both obliquely recognizes and reacts against the nihilistic coldness of the capitalist world, and becomes a statement of a profound disaffection and detachment.

The pooling of resources that characterizes Kocheisen + Hullmann’s method of production deflates the myth of a distinctively feminine versus masculine sensibility. In fact, perhaps the most startling aspect of these tidy works is their anonymity—the absence of human presence. They are effectively neutral, even frigid, generating no friction, no spark of feeling between them. Just as the bright red hues in Room No. 12—School F.H.C., 1995, lack any sense of warmth, the hermetic suburban environments of Green House Near Mantua and House Near Trento (both 1994) are decidedly bereft of passion and anxiety, beyond good and evil. Kocheisen + Hullmann are unexpectedly visionary: with uncanny insight they show us the desolate pseudoworlds of that ingenious brand of totalitarianism that has rendered everything the same.

Donald Kuspit