I’ve been walking around town in a sort of daze for the past few days—I can’t seem to shake these two images. On the good days, when it’s light out and the snow falls in tender flakes, I see a portrait, erotically-tinged in yellow tones, of a young girl in neglige. On the bad days, when the darkness never ends and I’ve slipped and fallen twice on frozen snow, I see a turtle struggling with all it’s might to right itself on table in the middle of a road. So as I wander with the impressions of Hödicke’s painting and film firmly etched in my mind’s eye, I’m forced to consider what makes the work currently on display at Berlinische Galerie so powerful? What marks this work as masterful when so much of what I see in Berlin’s art world these days melts away—monotonous, meaningless, medicore.
Now, I’ve read the theory: Ruskin, Greenberg, Fry and Bell (hell, even Baudelaire), but as far as I can figure it, what makes some art truly great is a form of magic—a trick so delicate, so elusive that it cannot be put into words. Take for example, the Hödicke show—a simple, sublte retrospective that gets off to a showy start only to amp up the awesome as it unfolds.
One of Hödicke’s landscapes. Photo: Chris Phillips
At the entrance, an oil drum hangs, unhinged, with a long and sticky sculptural drip drooling towards the floor [see main visual]. I’m amused and intrigued, but not altogether impressed.
Hang a right at the oil drum and you enter the realm of Hödicke’s paintings. Soft, shadowy noirs with an atmosphere like velvet and a vague, threatening air are hung alongside bright, primary figurations, childlike in tone but oh-so-mature in execution. The cityscapes reek of power and the bloody hues melding with grey and black are haunting. The nudes are strikingly abstract, blurred illusions in yellow and pink, cubist opuses in red, blue and green. This work demonstrates Hödicke’s prowess as a painter, and goes a long way towards explaining his rise to prominence as one of the pioneers of German neo-expressionism.
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