Marietta Hoferer: Visible / Invisible at Galerie Mourlot | download all reviews as pdf
M / The New York Art World, November 2008 / issue: Vol. 12 No. 3
by Megan Garwood

Marietta Hoferer Establishes a Language of Meditation

The visitor actively participates in an exploration of meditation when encountering the works included in Marietta Hoferer’s new solo exhibition, Visible/Invisible. The exhibition’s title suggests that the viewer will be confronted by the dichotomy of the visible and the invisible; in fact, the work oscillates between a unique revelation of the artist’s intention and the inescapable modularity of the picture plane.

Hoferer builds intricate pieces, fortified by tape on paper, which play with the structure of the grid to create nearly symmetrical systems of intersecting horizontal and vertical lines, as well as patterns of variously sized shapes. This near adherence to the formal rules of the grid organizes the pictorial space into one single plane - a fusion of foreground, middle ground, and background - replacing representational subject matter with abstraction, and invites meticulous examination. By eliminating recognizable figurative forms, Hoferer forces the viewer to mediate on presentation, material and formal elements.

Hoferer’s series of works awakens and arouses the minimalist eye by disrupting presumably reductive forms and objective subject matters with subversive marks and unexpected self-revelations. The insertion of the artist intentions into her minimalist compositions adds a personal touch to a previously rigid ideology, inviting the viewer to interact with the works. Variations on the formal grid, unexpected combinations of media, reflections of light and other evidences of the artist’s hand bring the viewer into a contemplative state, much like the repetition of a mantra elevates the spirit in meditation. The series engages in a minimalist rhetoric while also compiling a brief history of its creation; the works oscillate between precision and spontaneity, allowing each viewer to form a personal interpretation.

Hoferer premeditates the application of tape and slight nuances of the surface; her creative process is apparent in the occasional pencil line still visible in the finished work. This leads us to presume that she intended to alter the traditional grid pattern. In the past, the minimalist grid has been used as a conceptual tool, distancing the artist from the work by presenting a mechanical, inorganic organization of the world. Hoferer’s appropriation of the grid results in a minimalist but personal depiction of the material world. Her stories are not limited to the frame; they expand beyond the picture plane by repeating a pattern not only on paper, but also in the viewer’s mind.

Hoferer’s reworking of the grid echoes Agnes Martin’s drawings of the 1960s, in which Martin attempted to capture the power of nature and of Asian religion by projecting her feelings on repetitive forms. Hoferer has not stated her intentions clearly, but her approach evokes Martin’s existentialism. Her choice of medium adds layers of history to a two-dimensional grid. Tangible materials re-energize an established discourse.

In a piece entitled Braille 5, small, narrowly-spaced rows of white artist tape stretch across the width of the paper, overlapping with vertical columns of the same material. The piece forms a perfect square - 38 inches by 38 inches - yet the grid is slightly skewed. Both groups of lines, vertical and horizontal, attract and then repel each other, almost depicting waves of lines crashing onto a paper shore. Although, at first glance, Braille 5 seems to aim for calculated perfection - a geometric web of pure, white lines - further investigation reveal small incongruities. The piece juxtaposes two opposing formal elements, thus exciting the viewer’s eye. In Braille 5 trite tape transforms into a language for the blind. Hoferer’s titles do not relate directly to her pieces, they refer to the idea of a universal language.

Hoferer’s works can be interpreted as reliefs, drawings or sculptures. As a relief, Braille 5 can be read by the viewer as he or she runs her fingertips over the surface; as a drawing, it speaks of intersections and interactions of lines; as a sculpture, it embodies a palpable language. Although the bumps in Braille 5 may not be literally read as braille, they emit a tacit story to each viewer. To ensure a comprehensive reading of Braille 5, the viewer must consider many perspectives. At the intersection of vertical and horizontal lines, a shadow cast upon the paper exposes another grid underneath the three-dimensional tape, revealing another element of Hoferer’s work, light. The surface confronts the viewer with a dazzling light show as the overhead lighting dances around the grid. Acting as a catalyst, light brings out a different reaction, another pattern. Reflections of light often expose slight nuances in organization: a tilted square, a wavy line, a faint trace of pencil buried beneath the tape. Light reminds the viewer of Hoferer’s meticulous process. In a process similar to papier colle, Hoferer has revitalizes pure white tape, transforming it into a buzzing visual experience.

Like a sculpture’s multiple viewpoints, Hoferer’s work layers metaphysical viewpoints, combining minimalist, mannerist, and conceptual theories. Visible/Invisible relies on pure forms to introduce a pervasive language constructed on paper and built on the repetitions of line, grids, and hidden stories. Viewers must mediate on Marietta Hoferer’s works in order to truly comprehend the multiple stories that they tell.