Hanne Darboven

Recognized for three decades but never really reckoned with, Hanne Darboven’s work remains very much an unknown quantity. The full measure of her proliferative practice and the terms it sets for contemporary art has been all too easily obscured by art criticism’s unstoppable romance with authentic subjectivity, the private, the personal, and the autobiographical. True, the literature is surprisingly scant and suspiciously slight. Nearly all of it, however, sidesteps Mel Bochner’s 1967 avant-garde of impersonal systemizers, paying its dues instead to Lucy Lippard’s signal redemption of Darboven’s exploit in the name of an art that “comes directly from the artist’s own needs and compulsions,” to the indelible image she forged of the German artist’s virtually pathological assiduousness and obsessiveness. Tags like Johannes Cladders’ “mad enterprise” refer not to the enigmatic nature of

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