Galerie Crone is pleased to present an exhibition in honour of Hanne Darboven as part of Gallery Weekend Berlin. The artist would have turned 75 on 29 April 2016, the day of the exhibition opening. At the centre of the jubilee exhibition is the monumental work “Evolution Leibniz”. The exemplary work, which represents the conceptual, abstractive and simultaneously descriptive character of Darboven's art, is on display for the first time in 20 years. In addition, early “Konstruktion” drawings and typewriter works that created the foundation for large installation works such as "Evolution Leibniz" will be shown.
With her complex numerical and text works covering entire walls, Hanne Darboven belongs to the canon of contemporary art and was recently honoured with two major retrospectives in the Bundeskunsthalle Bonn and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. The equally complex and radical "Evolution Leibniz" from1986 occupies a very special place within her oeuvre because it perfectly combines and represents the artist’s two main themes - the visualization of epochs and biographies on the one hand, and the connection of past time periods with the present time on the other hand through the integration of historically loaded narratives. This work has only ever been shown once (at the Sprengel Museum Hannover) and it is part of an exhibition now for the first time since 1996. It is accompanied by five early “Konstruktion” drawings from 1966 and 1967. A purely numerical typewriter work from 1970 illustrates the development from the early “Konstruktion” drawings to the later written works.
Hanne Darboven’s work can be best understood within the context of ideas that first arose during the age of Enlightenment and with the discoveries made in the natural sciences that ushered in new systems of classification. With her specially developed written system consisting of numbers, letter and codes, the artist transforms time into writing. Thus, she provides an empirical investigation of time, which the viewer needs in order transcend himself and through which the present connects to the past and the future. The notion of reason (so strongly influenced by Enlightenment) is transformed in Darboven’s work to its logical conclusion – the creation of an ideal world in the metaphysical sense within the context of rational insight and correlations that follows certain conditions. It is the "confrontation with an enlightened world. God does not exist in her work".
Therefore, the “Konstruktion” drawings, which Hanne Darboven created in New York in 1966 and 1967, should be regarded as the foundation for her entire subsequent body of work. Following a method based on specific rules, she draws lines and rhombuses on graph paper and transforms them into geometric systems based on repetitions, duplications, reflections and sequences. Next she supplements the drawings with numbers which she uses to calculate her constructions and from which she ultimately develops an index that is the prefix to her drawings. This control system primarily served Darboven as a means of organizing the complex arrangement of lines. Only later did this system become compact and independent enough to become the foundation for her subsequent rules of organization.
With the “Konstruktion” drawings, Hanne Darboven awoke the interest of colleagues such as Sol LeWitt, Carl Andre and Lawrence Wiener. They were struck by Hanne Darboven’s focused and uncompromising way of working and introduced her to the legendary gallerist Leo Castelli, which was the beginning of the German artist’s international career. From then on, she was the only woman to belong to the New York minimal art scene centered around Sol LeWitt and Wiener, and she would be associated with this art movement until her death.
In terms of function, the “Konstruktion” drawings were initially conceived as plans or layouts for room high sculptures. Already during her time in New York, Darboven made attempts to convert them into three dimensions. “She cut the drawings up, folded them and mounted them to sculptural objects.” Her constructions “composed of numbers, angles, lines, dots, surfaces and spaces” became an “environment”, a “whole”, that contains a “diversity” a “complexity” and is “maze-like, unstable, curious”. In 2007, Hanne Darboven devoted herself once again to the “konstruktion” drawings. In conversations with the Crone gallerist Andreas Osarek, she repeatedly expressed a desire to see the sculptures that she had designed with the earlier “Konstruktion” drawings “built just once at some point”. After being encouraged by Osarek, she then had numerous versions of these sculptures built in model form, two years before her death. They were built to scale using wood, faithfully following the “Konstruktion” drawings.
Whereas Hanne Darboven undertakes a “constructivist voyage of discovery” in her earlier works and her entire artistic endeavor is aimed at developing a complex system that is logical, yet follows no externally imposed sense of meaning, these systems are then enhanced with an additional layer towards the end of the 1970s. The activity of writing as a form of “explicitly visualizing the passing of time in the act of writing itself” is by now a core element of her work. Now a narrative element enters her work more and more and can be found in the depiction of historical biographies and personalities, such as Nietzsche, Dostoevsky or Stresemann. Thus, the depiction of time is connected with the depiction of history, whereby the term’s ambiguity is deliberately integrated, with history on the one hand as documentation and analysis of historical processes and on the other hand as an oral or written tradition. By integrating passages from academic books and encyclopaedias in her work, an objective view of contemporary history arises through the connection of neutral, systematically arranged cross totals, which interweaves the past with the immediate present.
Comprising a total of 888 pages in 222 frames, "Evolution Leibniz" also visualizes contemporary history based on a study of the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, whose biography is linked through the systematic documentation of the here and now with its and our immediate present. Leibniz (1646 – 1716) is considered the leading mind of his time and a forefather of Enlightenment. Thus, the work also represents a discourse between Hanne Darboven and her own work and is simultaneously a “reference to the example of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz whose life and work she lifts out from the continual flood of history.”
The work is divided in three extensive thematic areas: encyclopaedia, visual documentation and daily computations. The first part of the work (pages 4 – 25) is objectively devoted to the life of the philosopher Leibniz, in which Darboven faithfully transcribes by hand the corresponding entries from the Brockhaus Encyclopaedia without making any of her own additions.
The following chronicle of images (pages 27 – 67) examines the themes of history, intellectual development and technical development based on photographs that derive from the artist’s visual archives and which she allocates associatively. For example, images of high chairs and a gas mask stand for history, whereas a Japanese paint box illustrates intellectual development. Images of various objects serve to exemplify technical development, such as a milk jug, a time clock or the handle used to flush a toilet.
The third and largest part of the work consist of “daily computations” (pages 68 – 444), which represent the year 1986 using Darboven’s distinctive systematic. The calendar data is uniformly carried forward every day, the monthly and annual data is converted into cross totals. The computations are always accompanied by the same image of a toy model toilet and a blacksmith at an anvil. Each month is introduced by alternating photographs of a human skeleton and a wooden leg. The waved lines translate the number sequences into images as the rhythmical sweeps and arches condense month for month with increasing intensity. Each respective current date as well as the artist’s own present time are brought to mind by the sober annotation of the word “heute” (today).
A striking sense of actuality in the work arises as the viewer repeatedly links the documented dates with their own experiences: “from the reference to the historical figure Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz to the former "today" of the year 1986 and to the here and now of the reader and viewer.”
Hanne Darboven was born on 29 April 1941 in Munich and grew up on her parent’s estate in Rönneburg near Hamburg-Harburg. In 1962, she began her degree at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg. Her stay in New York from 1966 until 1968 launched her international career as one of the leading conceptual artists. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions in virtually every major international exhibition venue around the world. She took part in the documenta on four occasions and participated in the Venice Biennale more often than any other female artist to date. Her works can be found in the world’s largest private collections. In 2000, the artist founded the Hanne-Darboven-Foundation, which is in charge of managing her estate and the academic documentation of her work. Hanne Darboven died in 2009 in Rönneburg.
Crone previously presented a jubilee exhibition to honour the artist’s 65th birthday. Colleagues such as Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner and Carl Andre congratulated her with works specially created for the exhibition. Darboven was present at the opening on that occasion.