Stefan Hirsig

Galerie Klosterfelde

Stefan Hirsig’s collages are the persistence of painting through different means. In his earlier paintings and murals, the Berlin artist, born in 1966, had already assimilated the Pop aesthetic: Sports-car chassis and electronic gadgets or rumpled jeans and hands with painted fingernails were combined with citations from art of the last forty years—a few streaks of color à la Morris Louis here, cool graphics reminiscent of James Rosenquist there, all delicately layered. In Hirsig’s new work, this play of cultural codes is further intensified. At the center of the eighteen collages shown here are album covers, cut into filigrees or torn into separate pieces. Each work is dedicated to a pop act—the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Talking Heads, Robert Palmer, the Cure, among others—forming an iconic teen bedroom that originates with the British Invasion, leads through psychedelia to punk, and finally ends in New Wave and postpunk. Hirsig supplements these fond memory traces with materials from his atelier, gluing bits of linoleum or brushes or a ruler onto the plywood base. Then he takes woolly-textured paper or strands of fishnet stockings and layers them over the surface of the image, laying the grid’s geometry over the whole, as in architectural floor plans. He also mixes acrylics or watercolors to form small, marbled islands. These details are important, building a bridge between the pop-obsessed teenager Hirsig once was and the self-possessed painter who reconstructs the fetishes of his youth in the present. For there can be no doubt that Hirsig is concerned with the fetish character of pop.

There are classics to be found among Hirsig’s motifs, like the pyramid drenched in blue light on the poster Pink Floyd included with their LP Dark Side of the Moon. Album-cover design gradually evolved into an art form over the course of the ’60s, just as the production of singles passed over into LPs and finally concept albums. For Hirsig such icons serve as visual objets trouvés drawn from the everyday, as in the collages of Cubism. But while his historical forerunners challenged illusionistic painting with the two-dimensional materiality of newspaper and the like, Hirsig welcomes the spatial illusions of the album covers, if only to a point. The psychedelic images of the ’60s and ’70s are a wild delirium of color that simulates the mind-bending effect into which the listener is meant to sink while listening to the music. Hirsig ironically interrupts this ecstasy. Suddenly the record covers are no longer part of an experience that connects sound and image. Instead, the motifs of pop dissolve into the allover of the painterly method: George Harrison’s mushroom is given a black, watercolored body, and yellowed false teeth are attached to the flawless white of Robert Palmer’s smile. Pop’s status-conscious style becomes a wildly rampant network of citations, icons, and ornaments. But a little nostalgia still remains—ultimately the music comes from a time when the right image wasn’t just product design but grounded in the identity of a generation.

Harald Fricke