Magazine article Artforum International

Joachim Bandau: Galerie Mark Muller

Magazine article Artforum International

Joachim Bandau: Galerie Mark Muller

Article excerpt


Joachim Bandau


Theodor Adorno, your illustrator is here.

Walking into this recent show of Joachim Bandau's work, one could not help but recall how Adorno's thinking, and that of some of his Frankfurt School colleagues, was characterized by axioms of exuberant pessimism: Humanity is deformed by a military-industrial cage; sexuality has been harnessed by the culture industries; our senses have been dulled by the media machine; our consumer society is nothing other than a cultural mausoleum, richly decked out with grave goods. Adorno dispensed his inexhaustible despair in aphorisms; he defined modern music--one of the few arts he loved--as "the surviving message of despair from the shipwrecked."

If the philosophical weight and media savvy of the Frankfurt School have a counterpart in the arts, they might be found in the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf of the 1960s, a school that produced not only Bandau but Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Hilla Becher, and a generation of German artists who took up a kind of intellectual residence in what Gyorgy Lukacs unforgettably described as the Grand Hotel Abyss. Like that of many of his peers, Bandau's work is uncompromising, politicized, antigustatory, and academic--he was a professor of sculpture at both Aachen and Munster. Well known at home but rarely shown abroad, Bandau embodies the enlightened nihilism of postwar German art.

Although Bandau's iconography is familiar in Germany, it did not develop all of a piece. Like many in Cologne in the mid-1960s, Bandau was influenced by Rudolf Zwirner's and Konrad Fischer's exhibitions of Pop, but he responded with a Frankfurt School edge. His torsos and busts are made of polished fiberglass, the reassembled pieces of dismembered mannequins. Their irritatingly glossy surfaces suggest all the allure capitalism can display, but also disfigurement and perpetual frustration.

Bandau's drawings from the early '70s mixed references to Leonardo da Vinci's codex of military inventions with World War II armaments as well as consumer commodities. Drawn in pencil on antique paper, with careful smudging, they recall the bleak fantasies of Lebbeus Woods, artifacts from some terrible future where the catastrophic capacity of the present has been brought to completion. …

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