When I think of Gregor Hildebrandt’s art, I immediately see images before my inner eye: black reflective surfaces made of vinyl, the silhouette of a young, beautiful woman, serial floral patterns, or a poetic title such Seiten im Buch wie Wände im Raum [Pages in the Book Like Walls in Space]. Gregor Hildebrandt produces works of art that people remember. When I visited the painter David Hockney in his studio last year, he said, “There is nothing more wonderful than painting pictures that people remember.” This is precisely what Hildebrandt’s paintings, sculptures, and installations do, because they leave traces and resonate in our imagination.
Hildebrandt’s works form the interfaces between the interior space of the imagination and the exterior world, where they face the beholder. At the same time, they are within themselves logical systems that result from the use of precisely processed materials. His technically sophisticated pictorial surfaces and spatially expansive installations of cassette tapes, which have clad the facades of entire buildings in Berlin and were even used as sails on boats, as happened recently in Tel Aviv, are always encoded in a complex manner. In his ongoing (and probably best-known) series with film and cassette tapes, Hildebrandt uses cassettes with recordings of films or music. By applying these analogue visual and sound-carrying media to a canvas, or rolling them into new objects, for example into snail-like shapes, he visualizes the spatialized time that is inscribed on the long black cassette tapes. The data on the tapes can themselves be regarded as traces that are superimposed on other codes or markings on the surface of the picture or object. The result is a complex sign system that penetrates the perfect and elegant surfaces, at the same time causing them to vibrate ever so subtly.
In his current show “With the Wishes the Time” at Galeria Casado Santapau, Hildebrandt confronts these references that are internal to the paintings with various other positions from art history. In several of the works made for this exhibition, he refers explicitly to artists of classical modernism, colour field painting, and minimalism.
A net of cassette tapes, attached just below the ceiling, produces a grid similar to the one the French conceptual artist François Morellet developed at the end of the 1960s in his abstract geometric paintings, which the American artist Sol LeWitt in turn took up in his wall drawings. Morrisey’s song “Spent the Day in Bed” is recorded on the tape.
At the front wall of the exhibition space, there is a rhombic painting that references the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian. The pictorial grid and the rhombic shape are reminiscent of Mondrian’s Composition VII (1919). The grid is made of black cassette tapes, and the white and black fields are composed out of the transparent and tinted leaders of the cassette tapes.
In the front part of the gallery, there is a small format, a direct reference to the painting Straight by the German artist Blinky Palermo. On Palermo’s canvas from 1965, narrow horizontal red, yellow and blue lines are superimposed on vertical lines.
There are further echoes of artists and musicians in the exhibition. A column of coloured, bowl-shaped records is reminiscent of the Polish artist André Cadere, who painted wooden bars. In another work, Hildebrandt takes up the curved pattern of a black-and-white mosaic floor at New York’s Maritime Hotel. Two other canvases are covered in tape with recordings of pieces by the American composer Philip Glass; the tape runs in straight lines, some of them vertical, some horizontal, and some diagonal, resulting in delicate grid structures that remind us of François Morellet. A large work in which the audiotapes are arranged in such a way that they divide the canvas into 32 white tiles, is another footnote to Morellet’s grid16 Carrés. For a painting in portrait format, Hildebrandt developed an energetic arrangement of colour fields by cutting coloured vinyl records into triangular and square shapes and reassembling them.
The variety of works in this exhibition demonstrates the broad spectrum of Hildebrandt’s works. At the same time, connections between individual works are made so that a coherent line emerges that enables new links. It is not least the multiple codifications and numerous references in his paintings that inspire us to an infinity of interpretations, associations, and streams of ideas and thoughts.
Thus, a painting contains an entire universe, and with a small detail—like the famous Madeleine in Marcel Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time—it can inspire an inner journey of the mind that becomes unforgettable.