Within the temporary span of his profession, Ull Hohn developed a singular physique of labor that was stylistically promiscuous however conceptually coherent, participating the historical past of portray slant to refine an strategy each analytic and private.
Hohn skilled on the Düsseldorf Academy beneath Gerhard Richter earlier than shifting to New York in 1986, the place he enrolled within the Whitney Unbiased Examine Program. The ISP’s theory-driven surroundings recast Hohn’s concept of portray, then thought-about outmoded and fatally indifferent from the occasions of the day. But he remained devoted to the medium and labored to renovate it from inside, using a battery of formal strategies towards a extra discursive follow. On view are numerous beforehand unexhibited works from this formative interval, which deal with portray from a spot of each vital distance and lingering attraction. Marbled swirls of enamel, varnish, and lacquer appear to liquidate the heritage of gestural abstraction, and different small-scale works used plaster to construct uncommon topographies in excessive aid. The son of an architect, Hohn used these works on wooden as research to discover extra dimensional helps, offering himself with uneven grounds on which to color anew.
The artist’s arrival in New York additionally coincided with the peak of the tradition wars, when the homosexual neighborhood was organizing itself towards the AIDS disaster and the conservative backlash of the Reagan period. In that politicized local weather, allusions to gender and homosexuality started to crop up in his work—as Tom Burr put it—Hohn wished “the act of portray—and the specifics of his biography as a painter—to fuse.” Swipes of squeegeed coloration might type tasteful backdrops for much less sanitized motifs: stenciled silhouettes of an erect penis that stuffed the floor of the canvas. Frank acknowledgments of sexual identification, these 1986–87 works additionally nod to the outsized position of the phallus within the rising subject of gender research, or to the so-called sample portray of his contemporaries like Philip Taaffe (whose garnishings had been already thought-about considerably passé in Hohn’s circle). On the ISP’s culminating exhibition in 1988, Hohn confirmed a set of brown monochromes—slathered and gleaming—that liken the painted floor to chocolate or feces, melding abjection and libidinal pleasures.
Even Hohn’s landscapes work to subvert painterly conventions, resembling a fusion of the Hudson River Faculty’s epic pastorals and the middlebrow fare of the Sunday painter. Works from 1992–93 had been primarily based on these of public tv sensation Bob Ross—whose syndicated program delivered step-by-step— genial steering to supply anodyne nature scenes. Portray à la Rosslet Hohn work in ways in which had been anathema to the artwork world, tacitly questioning the hierarchies of ability and sophistication that decide how portray is acquired. These “Pleasure of Portray” landscapes demystify the style, whereas additionally retaining a strangeness that results a sort of kitsch chic. An (unattributed) quote from Ross served because the epigraph to Hohn’s 1993 solo exhibition at American Effective Arts: “There aren’t any nice mysteries to portray. You solely want the need to color, a couple of primary strategies and just a little follow.”
Following Hohn’s premature dying attributable to AIDS-related problems in 1995, his work was little-seen for a number of many years, however has not too long ago skilled a resurgence of vital curiosity and visibility. Stressed however by no means cynical, Hohn’s work offers a historic bridge to a sensibility that has since grow to be way more prevalent—to view portray as a set of acutely aware gestures of deferral and evasion but search to innovate nonetheless.
at Greene Naftali, New York
till April 29, 2023