Heimo Zobernig

Galerie Meyer Kainer

“Ordering, fixing the places of things as well as ideas in their isolated form and showing their connections”—that’s how Heimo Zobernig defines his artistic method, which involves the analysis of ideas, the forms of presentation in art, and their relationship to theory. His is a cross-disciplinary body of work characterized by objectivity and formal reduction, standardized and normative systems. It enumerates its contents neutrally and without commentary, and it casually and repeatedly quotes the visual constants of the artist’s own previous work in order to relativize those constants in a kind of self-ironization.

Zobernig’s new works, all from 2002 and untitled, came as a much anticipated continuation of his basic discourse, which they extend with sophistication and ease. The first work in the exhibition, a net made of Trevira, a high-tech fiber often used for television studio backdrops, offered multiple surfaces for projection and interpretation. In this piece the painter’s primary colors are usurped by the blue, red, and neon green used in video editing in order to splice in images behind news anchors. Gender discourse, the electronically synthesized space of the media, and Zobernig’s own color theory were fused in this painting-sculpture hybrid, which combined the layered meanings of its form and content into a timely take on modernity. The loosely draped web also functioned as a link between two projection screens—one blank and one coated in the sparkling white paint used for marking roads. Sited between these was what might be called a kind of apparatus for experimenting with the representational function of the image, where, in this case, the oscillation between surface and painting substrate was being tested. Here, on top of sewn-together blue, red, and green studio backdrops, Zobernig had spackled white acrylic paint, creating a grid structure with masked-off strips, with the color running out at the edges. Zobernig joined the classic emancipatory conceit of modernism with the traditional genre of painting and replaced “masculine” modes of composition and seeing with an antihierarchical, web-like pattern.

The irreverence this work showed in its recasting of Robert Ryman’s sensual painterly qualities was also apparent in a piece that referenced Bruce Nauman: a pair of Styrofoam dummy heads in a net of blue tape hanging from the ceiling by a wire. This referred also to a video in the neighboring room, of a performance in which the artist’s naked body and (digitally) shorn head were covered with tape; through the Chromakey fade-out technique of the “blue box,” the strips became a body painting that divided and fragmented the figure. Moviegoers, however, might have been reminded of Hannibal Lecter—an association that Zobernig would probably not find fruitful. But since he is so reserved with his own interpretations and intentions, he might well consider such a reading neither correct nor entirely wrong.

With a painting of the word REAL flipped as if seen in a mirror, Zobernig added another to his sequence of text-based works. For the artist’s large-format picture, his “sculptural” palette was employed: The same orange, brown, white, and black with which he paints his sculptures were meant to lend “weight” to the depicted text.

Brigitte Huck

Translated from German by Sara Ogger