Wednesday, March 18, 2009

German artist Hanne Darboven has passed away

Last week Hanne Darboven, one of the most important contemporary German artists, died at age 67.

Darboven went to art school in Hamburg in the sixties, after which she moved to New York where she lived for two years. During that time, she befriended artists from the “Minimal art” movement that inspired her to create her own art projects. These included large scale construction drawings that to the novice eye (read mine) look like large calendars.

Of course, it is a little more sophisticated than that. They are systems with simple number sequences in columns and in boxes that look like arbitrary numbers, but they were actually written according to strict predefined structures with complex variations.

After her first solo exhibition in Germany in the late 1960’s, Darboven moved back to Hamburg where she became intrigued with rewriting poetry according to various complicated indices. This let to more exhibitions of her work in various places.

From the mid ‘70s onwards, Darboven focused on what turned out to be her greatest work, namely the way she saw the passing of time through numeral codes, words, photographs etc. She created a total of 3361 pages of text, calculations and drawings that represent her systematic approach to counting the years 1900 to 1999. In her drawings two kinds of time can be found, the actual time it took to make them and the historical time they represent.

Darboven’s work has been shown in museums all over the world, including New York’s famous Guggenheim museum.

I had not known about Hanna Darboven or her work, until I read about her passing, and saw a picture of her that drew my attention. Who was this androgynous looking lady? I had to find out. This was easier said than done, because even though I found out many things about her wonderful art, hardly anything seems to be known about her personally, let alone her private life.

I am not sure if this means that she was all about her work, as some sources speculate, or that she was just a very private person. All I could find out is that Darboven has always been known for appearing in public with a crew cut and dressed in men’s suits. Well, at least she did for the last few decades.

There was a wonderful photo exhibition a couple of years ago in which photographer Angelika Platen showed pictures she took of Darboven both in 1968 and in 2002. I find it very fascinating to see the 34 years of difference between these photographs.

If you want to find out more about Darhoven you can do so here, or if you want to get a better understanding of the background of her work, click here.

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