There’s a moment when the super-creative but detached suddenly open up and reveal actually, they do know what’s going on. It’s a brave thing to do because it both raises the stakes for intellectual performance and blows away the dandelion dander of the potentially naive. Maybe partly involuntarily but resolutely nonetheless, Liam Gillick’s two works arranged in careful complement in the subterranean Lenbachhaus annex achieve this emergence, perhaps more substantively than at their dates of creation in the ‘aughts.
Part of the KiCo Stiftung comprising the very deep “Kunst nach 1945” Sammlung, Gillick’s Screened Reduction (2001) and Glanced in the Midst of a Legislative Break (2006) are opaque Plexiglas and aluminum structures, sculptures poised at the edge of painting. In reference to the latter they clearly hearken to Kenneth Noland’s high Straight Edge (think Bridge circa 1964) and are also thematically in sync with an earlier guest in the Kunstbau, Piet Mondrian, and as such more than nod to the historical commitment to abstraction.
Gillick, who is also a composer and musician (he actually made the sampling loop of the Smiths’ How Soon is Now? you will remember – if you are a former club kid – from Soho’s 1990 nightclub single Hippy Chick!), tends to characterize his work in careful Global Art Fair-speak as being about the questioning of political authority and so on. However taking at visual and bodily encounter value, Screened Reduction and Glanced in the Midst of a Legislative Break are hardly obscurantist, inviting inspection and delectation in simple optics.
I decided to take this sort of sideways approach to writing about “Das Neue Lenbachhaus” when on a subsequent visit I saw for the first time, for a long time, and up very close, Hans Hoffman’s The Conjurer (1959). Hoffman is very collected but quite under-studied, and this painting is historically significant as well as quite lovely. I hope you can see in the adjacent image the toned translucency and balance of the aqua swatch, which is so carefully balanced on the canvas that the bright color does not preoccupy the eye, and also the charcoal impasto and general texture of the canvas, which is both thick and lustrous.
The Bavarian-born Hoffman traveled back and forth between Munich and the United States, and like Kandinsky once opened his own school for artists. Hoffman had many talented students, including Louise Nevelson, Allan Kaprow and Helen Frankenthaler. The Conjurer, made some years after Frankenthaler became well-known for her vertical soak-stain paintings, suggests maybe Hoffman, like Morris Louis, got some ideas from Frankenthaler, too.