Henri Jacobs

Galerie Paul Andriesse

The new paintings of Dutch artist Henri Jacobs are dominated by grids, in sharp contrast to his earlier work, in which words and figures filled complex, mazelike interior spaces. The spaces in his new work are mysteriously empty; one can only guess at what might have taken place within them.

In the piece entitled La Reconciliation (Reconciliation, 1995), Jacobs depicts four facades; each conveys a degree of depth by showing a glimpse of an empty interior through an open door. Three of these interiors are identical, but in the fourth only the ceiling is visible, so that the space inside is rendered a gaping void. Where windows appear, the canvas has been replaced by pieces of glass through which one can see the wall behind, and mirrors have also been attached, reflecting the space in front of the painting. Other works were riddled with perforations as well—the openings that have been created resembling pierced flesh as much as the windows they are meant to suggest. Through the grid-holes, color has bled from one side of the painting to the other; this flow of color, resembling clouds of steam, almost totally covers the painted grid on the front. Jacobs presents painting both as illusion and as pure surface, emphasizing the contradictions between the two as much as their interdependence.

One is left with the contrast between a seemingly boundless space and the flat, material canvas, as well as between the organizing principle of the grid and an apparently arbitrary flow of color. Jacobs penetrates the canvases to such an extent that the large holes turn each canvas into another grid. In La redemption (Redemption, 1991–95), he goes so far as to make the canvas reversible: the back can serve as the front. Holes are made, but are also stopped up again, invoking, like the titles of the paintings, emotional states or religious ideals; the canvas is both wounded and healed. All of these works make representation into a point of contention: all is resemblance and dissemblance, appearance and illusion.

Frank-Alexander Hetting

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.