Hanne Darboven at Dia:Chelsea
For the last four decades of her life, the German conceptual artist Hanne Darboven (1941-2009) operated largely out of a centuries-old house she had inherited from her family in Hamburg-Harburg. A transformative stay in New York in the mid-Sixties, during which she befriended Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt, had led her to undertake the laborious handwritten works that first made her reputation: sheets filled with numbers, lines and quotations that she used as a kind of shorthand to mark the passage of time. In the Seventies, however, her house also became the repository for a daunting and eclectic collection of ephemera: old German postcards; lurid covers from the magazine Der Spiegel; glamor shots of American movie stars; photographs of doors; teddy bears; religious paraphernalia; Bismarck statues; mannequins.
It was from this collection that Darboven compiled the 1,590 papers and 19 objects—some disturbing, some mysterious and others creepily idyllic—that made up Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983 [Cultural History 1880–1983], first exhibited in 1983 and on view now at Dia:Chelsea. Walking through these many hundreds of framed images, arranged in vast floor-to-ceiling grids and interspersed with eerie found sculptures, is like seeing a century of German history refracted through a single artist’s dark, brilliant and drily funny mind.
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