Gallery Hopping: Lothar Hempel’s Challenging Collages at Sies + Höke

The multimedia artist's work retains a sense of unity across painting, sculpture, and collage.

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Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Lampenfieber (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Installation view, Lothar Hempel, "Working Girl" (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Now is a WOMAN (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Working Girl (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Ohne Titel (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Terra Incognita (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Wir müssen mit Gefühlen spielen (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, In Gedanken (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Hinterm Vorhang (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.
Lothar Hempel at Sies + Höke
Lothar Hempel, Ohne Titel (2016). Photo by Achim Kukulies, courtesy Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf.

The press release issued for Berlin-based artist Lothar Hempel’s current show at Düsseldorf’s Sies + Höke is a collage that is as challenging to read as the sculptures, photographic prints, paintings, and mixed media works on view are to decode.

An interview between the artist and one Emma Stern reveals the artist’s interest in “reinstalling” his female figures, de-contextualized from their roles in movies, into new narratives. (Ultimately, though, Hempel explains, his use of appropriated imagery just adds to the larger lifespan of his chosen collage material, which will undoubtedly be re-cut, re-sampled, and re-contextualized elsewhere—call it poor image theory). Interspersed between the dialogue is, in bold, the first paragraph from the Wikipedia plot summary of the 1998 movie “Working Girl.”

Hempel’s exhibition takes its name from the movie. The 12 works, all made this year, come in an array of shapes, sizes, and media, yet all communicate the artist’s sensibility for humor and, sometimes, bewilderment. One miniature work, a 6 x 6 inch print of a turquoise-tinted Catherine Deneuve, layers the same portrait on top of itself in progressively smaller squares in a seemingly crude copy-paste function, amplifying the effect of the artificial wind blowing through her photoshoot-ready hair.

One gets the impression, from the collage works’ titles and the oblique accompanying text, that Hempel wants to conceal the images’ origins from the viewer. Google image search, fortunately or unfortunately, allows for a digging up of even the most obscure references, like the only image of a man in the show, who appears in another miniature photographic print, Ohne Titel, speaking on a telephone with a cord and affixed with the Italian phrase, “I morti non ridono…” Search engines can reveal that the man is Ascan Crone, co-founder of Crone Gallery, and the text (“the dead do not laugh”) is likely a reference to an Italian action-crime novel. But all this matters little, because the fun of Hempel’s work lies precisely in not being able to immediately decode it. Luckily, the collage-like paintings of women in pastel colors beg for a decoding that cannot be as easily undertaken by Google algorithms.

“Working Girl” is on view at Sies + Höke in Düsseldorf until January 5, 2017.


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