In portraiture irrelevance is ugliness. (Group show featuring Annelise Coste, Pamela Golden, Sigrid Hackenberg, Claude Horstmann, Ketty La Rocca, Pili Madariaga, John Miller, Julian Opie, Simon Periton, Matthias Schaufler, Corinna Schnitt, Thomas Struth, Stephen Willats. Curated by Claudia Seidel). 06.12.2002 – 01.02.2003

Press Release
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english / deutsch

In portraiture irrelevance is ugliness (07.12.2002 – 01.02.2003) is the first of the Gallery Reinhard Hauff’s loose sequence of themed exhibitions that will complement our presentation of artists in future. In collaboration with the Museum Schloß Hardenberg, Velbert, the exhibition will also be shown there from 16.2. to 20.4.2003.

The exhibition is built around the concept of portraiture, which occurs a number of times in Villard de Honnecourt's masons' book. Etymologically it is derived from protrahere in the senses of 'drawing out' and 'bringing to light'. For Villard, portraiture is a force that “is expressed in an activity from which an opus emerges, just as disegno is later seen as an act of doing" (Gottfried Böhm). The artistic ability to extract features from things that are to be represented, in order to cast light on the human figure via the network of geometry, leads to model patterns that already carry traces of individualization in
Villard's work. Portraiture as an ability relates less to a result, a work, as to the question of how things that are seen can be conveyed into a pictorial representation within the economy of artistic resources (Drawing, in Villard's case). For Villard, the mathematical geometrical model was available as something ideal and universally valid for reproducing the essential when faced with this task, and also functioned as a guarantee of the 'beautiful'. However, the options for the artistic production of people's descriptions of themselves and others are as good as boundless today.

"Underneath each picture there is always another picture" said Douglas Crimp
in his essay pictures. He compares artistic activity with a stratigraphical search for structures and significance. In terms of the portrait as a representation of a human being, an activity of this kind now also takes the form of an examination of the subject, which as a carrier of heteronomous meanings can equally well be interpreted psychologically, sociologically, politically, economically or historically. An 'ego' is constructed on this basis, as it no longer exists 'ex se'—and yet the 'ego' repeatedly occurs in artistic works as a captive sensual unit.

The contemporary portrait, which crystallizes out of the ability to make artistic distinctions vis-à-vis the numerous social points of view, can thus also be read as a resistance model for the ‘ego’ in terms of its discursive fragmentation. Portraiture by contemporary artists, their choice of reproductive processes, thus endow the subject with an 'ego' existence, at least in art, through which the subject—as an object under observation—can at least reflect upon or remember its social configurations: in no other genre is the presence of the representation so entangled with the absence of what is represented that memory unavoidably accompanies any act of looking at a portrait.

If we follow Baudelaire, for whom memory was the greatest criterion for art, then the 'beautiful' is found again in a wonderful way in that he postulates art as a mnemonic technique for the beautiful and carried this out using the confrontation of ‘ideal’ and ‘model’ for representing human beings: "… just as there is no such thing as a perfect circle, the absolute ideal is a folly as well. Poets, artists and the whole human race would be very unhappy if the ideal, this absurdity, this impossibility, were to be found. What would anyone then be able to do with his poor ego—with his broken line? (…) So according to this the ideal is not that pale haze, that arid, incomprehensible, shadowy figure that floats about the ceilings of the academies; an ideal is the individual, reconstructed, reformulated (…) re-reported through the individual."