DITTRICH & SCHLECHTRIEM is pleased to present OPEN AS SMART OBJECT a solo exhibition by Berlin-Hamburg based artist Dennis Loesch.
OPEN AS SMART OBJECT – by Joy Kristin Kalu
When visual artists started extending their support media into three dimensions, they chose between two ostensibly contrary avenues. A comparison between Robert Rauschenberg’s and Frank Stella’s works from the 1950s illustrates the difference most clearly: Rauschenberg’s Combine Paintings mixed found everyday materials, often specimens of popular culture, which protrude from the flat support medium into space; Stella, by contrast, used slightly deeper stretcher frames for his Black Paintings, which made the objecthood of his geometrically structured and reduced pictures conspicuous. In this regard, Stella’s work was an obvious precursor of the so-called Minimal art that Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, and others would produce in the 1960s, using standardized and sometimes mass-produced objects and installing them in rigorously geometrical arrangements on the wall or floor. Whereas 1960s Pop art subscribed to representation and an aesthetic modeled on advertising, media, and product design, Minimal art refused to represent anything beyond the materiality of its objects. The focus was on the self-referential quality of the works.
Half a century later, Dennis Loesch’s Memory Sticks now intertwine the two gestures: the systematic arrangement of store-bought aluminum rods adopts the clarity of Minimal art with its aim of emphasizing the aesthetic qualities of the material; but then the focus is on anything but self-reference the objects serve as fractured support media for imagery, displaying defamiliarized versions of highly recognizable contemporary printed and photographic materials. Conceived in 2010 as a decidedly analogue equivalent of the storage media known by the same name, the Memory Sticks rods whose surfaces teem with tiny photographs from the artist’s digital image archive have undergone mutation; most of them must now be regarded as ensembles displaying a single picture. They have become the artist’s ‘imaging procedure,’ allowing him to translate a wide range of originals into sculpture: playmates, playing cards, and banknotes have all found their way into his scanner, were dismantled and displaced and ultimately arranged in compositions that now seem surreal, now sport a clean graphic look.
In the current exhibition, the written word stands at the center of the installations. The sources are entirely gleaned from printed media: the artist scanned articles and covers lifted from daily papers and art, fashion, and lifestyle magazines, magnified fragments logos, blocks of text and the accompanying imagery he cut into square pieces of 4 by 4 cm (the format has become the established standard for the Sticks), rearranged them, and pasted them to the rods. In this instance, the Memory effect is a very different one: the act of beholding revolves around the question, What belongs together? We intuit rather than recognize logos and images, putting together before the inner eye what Loesch has separated in the physical world. These smart objects know more than their beholders do. Like the ‘smart objects’ embedded in information technologies the related command from a menu in Photoshop has given the exhibition its title they are capable of storing and processing information and interacting with their environment. Their aim, however, is precisely not to bridge the differences between the physical and digital worlds; to the contrary, they make the gap in the inter-media flow of information their maxim.
Text as image, isolated from its argumentative contexts and freed of the burden of having to make sense, here tends toward abstraction, sometimes dissolving into shape and color, emphasizing the material qualities of the source. But in fact the printed materials Loesch has manipulated had already undergone very similar processes of transformation: during the work on the layout, their creators performed the multi-layered task of selecting, digitizing, and altering their sources, though their work was eventually fed into the flatness of the printing process. Loesch gives this work of translating another twist: the origins of images, words, and ideas, the contexts and strategies of their presentation are reduced ad absurdum, dissolved into matrix dots and set out for debate in a very different form. This most recent displacement dissolves the graphical flatness of the text as much as any perspectival depth of the accompanying photographic materials; both are converted into the real spatial existence of the three sculptural dimensions of the Sticks, a transformation that produces the effect of a picture puzzle: blown to pieces, the images keep the beholders moving. Any shift of perspective offers entirely new insights [...]
The fragmentation, disruption, and intermingling of the materials, the zooming-in on minutia, and the confinement to detail that the Sticks display in a wide range of ways are not alien to our contemporary visual habits. The aesthetic aura that surrounds the imagery once it has been translated into three dimensions sets the original content at a distance that is already implicit in the ‘double coding’ of the sources: page after page, they send simultaneous signals inviting us to skim as well as immerse ourselves. The Memory Sticks now quite literally expand the ‘superficiality’ of this material. Yet they also selectively shut down the mass-media information flow from which they derive. They challenge us to look more closely, offering insights into the qualities of the materials involved and lend substance to the labor and effects of translation. The magnification affords a place to the traces left by the processes of reproduction: blemishes and imperfections owed to the scanner’s platen glass, wear on the source material, or the manual process of making the collage. These traces point to the numerous transformations the mass-produced source material has undergone, defying rapid habitual consumption and charging the imagery with the aura of the original.
Full catalog text included in catalog for OPEN AS SMART OBJECT, available for purchase at the gallery.
This is Dennis Loesch’s fourth solo show in Berlin. He has exhibited throughout Europe, as well as Los Angeles. His work is included in the collection of MoMA, New York.