Perrotin Hong Kong is pleased to present German artist Gregor Hildebrandt’s latest exhibition Behind My Back, In Front of My Eyes, marking his second solo show in the city. Hildebrandt is known for his innovative artworks using repetition for their collage structure and magnetic tape as their medium.
Gregor Hildebrandt’s signature media are cassette tape and vinyl, which he collages and assembles into apparently minimalist yet latently romantic paintings, sculptures, and installations. Since the late 1990s, the artist has been employing the fungible material of the magnetic tape to produce silence. This silence is literal and metaphorical. It all began when he developed the idea of sticking music to his sketchbook, igniting an impulse to transform music into material form.
The artist records the melody,
rhythm, and affect of selected songs on empty tapes. This done, he
applies the music in its physicalized form (by cutting the magnetic tape out), on canvas surfaces, creating
what he calls “rip-off paintings.”
Beginning with one canvas, the artist applies self-adhesive tape in vertical strips across the surface before painting patterns with translucent fixative. Audio and video tape strips are then applied, their magnetic coating sticking to the unfixed adhesive sections. To create a "negative" painting of the first, the remaining tape is applied to a second canvas.
Hidlebrandt seeks to visualize music by affixing it to a tangible surface. When the analog materials -- tape and vinyl record -- were the media of audio recording, they embodied temporality. By recording single songs that he likes over and over again on the tapes, Hildebrandt stimulates a reflective nostalgia for the song stirred to his memory.
Memories are plural and fleeting. Hildebrandt materializes his fragmented memory and expresses it through his works. In his statement piece, White flower pointing up (Alphaville), the inspiration came to the artist during his trip to Japan. The motif of this work was evoked by a napkin Hildebrandt saw when he was dining in a local restaurant near Mount Fuji. The diptych-structured painting, which playfully develops from a ying and yang composition of the motif, stands in the foyer of the gallery as an introduction to the entrance of each of the two rooms.
Stemming from the artist’s distinctive rip-off technique, which generally produces two similar yet opposite black-and-white paintings, White flower pointing up (Alphaville) stands out by combining in one single canvas both the negative and positive parts, both made out of the components of the same tapes. The structure of this painting emphasizes the theme of this exhibition — Behind My Back, In Front of My Eyes — the symmetric situation resonates with parallel universes, just like the painting expresses. The song on the tape, Big in Japan by Alphaville, a German underground synth-pop band active in the 1980s, is chosen as reminiscence of Hildebrandt’s visit to the country.
I like the idea that my black monochrome painting is a certain song, and that it really is in the painting.
Music and sound show how the processes of memory operate through tape loops and echoes, intersecting with the material forces and patterns that compose the artist’s own frame of experience. With White flower pointing up (Alphaville)’s symmetrical arrangement as a point of departure, the artist has created a new series of black-and-white rip-off paintings, which develops on each side of the gallery rooms’ common wall. Structuring the show in the manner of a conceptual spine, this series introduces a mirror-like situation for each of the rooms. Virtually connected through the wall by the way they hang back-to-back and in reversed directions, the group of paintings seems to extend further in the exhibition the principles at stake in the introductory painting.
The artist adopts a new technique with acrylic glue, unlike his usual use of adhesive tape, to create color rip-off paintings for the first time. The color version of the rip-off series, positioned on the walls of both rooms symmetrically, is made from the VHS tapes that Hildebrandt dubbed from various original films. The initial inspiration of the colorful series came from his experience of playing a game called “secret paintings” when he was a child (a picture applied in different colors before it is covered in black wax crayon and scraped off with a knife, so that the color background is revealed). The artist metaphorically improvises his impressions of these films with the manipulation of different colors on each painting.
Standing in the first room is a multi-color vinyl column titled Sur le comédien and its selection of colors is inspired by the composition of Frank Stella’s work Paradoxe sur le comédien. To fully utilize the analog materials, Hildebrandt makes use of cassette cases in a shelf-like installation. By rendering the pop-art-style poster of the film You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger by Woody Allen with inkjet printing as the graphic on a cassette shelf, the artist draws audience's attention to cassette cases, the crucial but easy-to-ignore part of analog media. With their architectural elements, together with the adjacent color rip-off painting Moby (recalling the 1851 novel and the film adaptation in the 1950s), the installations mirror the iconic harbor view, skyscrapers and strangers in the city that the gallery overlooks.
In all cases, I would like to make a memorial to different songs that are important to me. Not like an equestrian statue, but rather only that one thinks about it: that these good songs are not forgotten. The cassettes that I use are all specially recorded for this painting, so they are actually not destroyed.
Born in 1974 in Bad Homburg, Germany
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany
Gregor Hildebrandt’s signature media are cassette tape and vinyl, which he collages and assembles into apparently minimalist yet latently romantic paintings, sculptures, and installations. Resting in silence behind the glossy surface of his analog aesthetics, which verges on black and white monochrome, music and cinema haunt his practice. Whether pictorial or sculptural, all of his works contain prerecorded materials, which he references in the titles. These pop-cultural sources, usually a single song, are meant to trigger both collective and personal memories. Like analog storage media, his distinctive rip-off technique is a metaphor for the mnestic process itself: it consists in rubbing magnetic coating against double-sided adhesive tape stuck on canvas to trace intricate and elusive powdery patterns. Further relating to architectural Gesamtkunstwerk, Hildebrandt’s monumental sonic barriers made of stacked, bowl-shaped records and his sensual wall curtains made of unreeled tapes create paths for the visitors of his shows.