An exhibition by Hartmut Austen,
Assistant Professor, Studio Art, Art, Art History, and Film Department
In 1984, Hartmut Austen, finishing Middle School, became seriously interested in the visual arts. Devoting much of his time to drawing, he took inspirations from a variety of pop-cultural and historic sources such as architecture magazines, art catalogs but also music and literature. His often small drawings on paper in pencil, ink and gouache were both derivative and experimental but also dreamy and, to be honest, not that original. It didn't matter. They set Austen on his way to eventually making his emerging passion also a profession.
In 1984 "Stop Making Sense", a concert film directed by Jonathan Demme and featuring a live performance by the band Talking Heads, came out and had a profound effect on Austen.
Two decades later, a friend and colleague from art school in Berlin casually observed: "You really found your thing early". This, in the artist's mind, would imply only two things: It would either suggest that the artist's work was consistent and assured; or, in turn, that works were stale and stagnant for a long time, nothing has changed, better look for something else to do.
Have works and methods employed by the artist changed over time? To find out, Austen created this exhibition by revisiting and interrogating some of his early documented drawings from 1984, and in a short, frenzied period, produced new work based on some of his 'old ideas'.
The works presented in this exhibition are uniform in size (23 ¾ in x 17 ¼ in) and intended to be displayed unframed, therefore highlighting their material character and the tentative, experimental nature of their creation.
Hung closely in a sequence similar to the structure of the film "Stop Making Sense", viewers will experience the drawings in quick succession, experiencing contrast of imagery, color, form, attitude and energy while also noticing certain reoccurring elements such as the digitally printed motifs. The Iris test prints with New-England related motifs were left behind by a previous tenant of Austen's studio and, in the artist's mind, link the entire project to the present and his recent move to Boston.
Most of the works in this exhibition were created with the assistance of Sara Chung and Lucas Mockler, art majors in the department of Art, Art History and Film. Thank you to both and also to Nina Bogdanovsky, art area Library specialist for the invitation to present the works in O'Neil Library!