Antonius Hockelmann

By Kuspit, Donald | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Antonius Hockelmann


Kuspit, Donald, Artforum International


This exhibition of Antonius Hockelmann's drawings and sculptures from the '60s made it clear that he is one of the masters of postwar German art. His work is not unrelated to that of Georg Baselitz, who invited him to participate in the publication of the "Pandemonium Manifesto" in 1961. Though Hockelmann declined, this was not an indication that there was no pandemonium in his art. Everything here moves toward a demonic amorphousness, often triggered by an overly sensitive response to genitalia and excrement. His work also seems genuinely pathological--a fixated expression of profound conflict, shattering the very substance of the self. The artist sometimes twists body parts beyond untwisting, as in the sculpture of an impossibly bent arm, suggesting that the crumbling body-ego is his subject. Expressionistic drawings are known for their troubled gestural surfaces, but Hockelmann's seem particularly disturbed, implying that an even more fundamental disturbance is at stake--the tearing of the ego skin that keeps the body together and mediates between inside and outside. In general, the drawings are striking for their involuted energy--perverse because it has no channel it can flow into, and no object to which it can securely attach itself. This is the art of someone who has been forced back on a self he does not know.

Nature conceived as simultaneously expressive and graphic is Hockelmann's point of departure. Organic forms are regarded as nature's self-expression, encouraging Hockelmann's own self-expression, indeed, inviting him to merge with nature--to lose himself in it, or rather to confirm that he has lost his self. …

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