Karl Martin Holzhäuser: Lichtmalerei at Yossi Milo Gallery

Art Scene

Karl Martin Holzhäuser: Lichtmalerei at Yossi Milo Gallery

A pre-internet calm laced with elements of both abstraction and order lingers in the ambiance of the exhibition, Karl Martin Holzhäuser: Lichtmalerei, at Yossi Milo Gallery. The photographs on view are in fact “light paintings” (“Lichtmalerei” in German) and were made from the 1980s through the early 1990s by Holzhäuser, a strict practitioner of Concrete Photography.

87.28.5, 1987. Two Vintage Prints, Colored Light on PE-color paper, 24” x 20″ (60 x 50 cm) each element, 47 1/4″ x 19 3/4” (120 x 50 cm) overall, Unique.

The genre falls within the larger field of concrete art. The style is premised on photography as a self-referential art form, an alternative to photography as a medium to express or signify something external. The tools of light, paper and chemicals in and of themselves, as a way to express the form and structure of the medium of photography, offer a distinct space from traditional light-images or those made in a digital context.

87.19, 1987. Two Vintage Prints, Colored Light on PE-color paper, 24” x 20″ (60 x 50 cm) each element, 47 1/4″ x 19 3/4” (120 x 50 cm) overall, Unique.

In the case of Holzhäuser, the images on view were made in total darkness without an awareness of what was being exposed until after the picture was complete. However, his process was not random or entirely spontaneous. The artist’s construction of a “light rake” (“Lichtrakel”), a small apparatus with lights of various widths and colors attached to it, allowed for pre-determined conceptualizations of compositional outcomes organized around colors, grids, patterns and shapes. With these ideas in mind, Holzhäuser’s gestural choices with the rake were then executed over sensitized chromogenic photographic paper.

Lichtmalerei 13.1-12, 1985. Twelve Vintage Prints, Colored Light on PE-color paper. Paper: 16″ x 12″ (40.5 x 30.5 cm) each element. Framed: 16 1/4″ x 12 1/4″ (41.5 x 31 cm) each element. Unique.

The exhibition features a variety of groupings – diptychs, triptychs and grids – that suggest the experimental nature, through repetition and the comparing of outcomes, of Holzhäuser’s process. Several of the works convey a feeling of hand-drawn lines made with a wide-tip magic market or crisp paint strokes. A translucent use of light is evident in the images as well, conveying a three-dimensional effect. There is a strong sense of multidimensional light inhabiting space, captured on two-dimensional paper.

88,4.3., 1988. Colored Light on PE-color paper. Paper/Mount: 23 1/2″ x 19 5/8″ (60 x 50 cm). Framed: 24 1/8″ x 20 1/8″ (61.5 x 51 cm). Signed and Titled Recto in Pencil. Unique.

The amount of white space that each light painting sits on creates a relaxing sense of spaciousness that perhaps echoes Holzhäuser’s experience of working in darkness. The emotion of color does not overpower the works. A focused balance can be felt in the clean, elegant and airy coexistence of linearity and curvature within several of the pieces.

In the back room of the gallery, Holzhäuser’s work is complemented by the group exhibition, Painting with Light, showcasing a variety of works that intersect with some of the ideas within Concrete Photography. Both figurative and abstract works are on view including works from as recent as 2018 by Liz Nielsen. The oldest works date back to the late 1940s, including an undated black and white interpretation of a Picasso drawing by Gjon Mili.

Karl Martin Holzhäuser: Lichtmalerei is on view at Yossi Milo through February 23, 2019.