IN 1996 Nicolas Bourriaud included Lothar Hempel in “Traffic” at CAPC in Bordeaux, France, placing the German artist alongside numerous others of his generation such as Liam Gillick, Philippe Parreno, and Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster. Since then, Hempel’s star has perhaps not burned as brightly as these other artists’, but this spring saw him return to France for his first retrospective—or “flashback,” as the dreamlike nature of the show at Grenoble’s Magasin seemed to suggest.
Organized by curator Florence Derieux, “Alphabet City” featured more than sixty pieces, spanned eleven rooms, and was bookended by an emblematic pair of works. At the beginning was Vorwärts! (Forward!), 2006—appropriately titled but, given the date of its making, also an indicator that the show was more thematic than chronological—in which a photograph of a girl with a drum (at a Swiss festival in the ’60s) sits atop
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