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Waiting for the Effect
Hubert Kiecol’s Letter Images in the ibc Casino

Hubert Kiecol became well-known in the eighties with his miniature houses of cement – sculptures from everyday life that reflect authentic experience and bring about an aesthetic transformation. Buildings like these can be detected to this day in the images the renowned artist created for the ibc in Frankfurt: here, however, the motifs are given the same weight alongside Kiecol’s painted sentence fragments. Ulrich Clewing has deciphered them.

Hubert Kiecol, Glückliche Maße, 2004
Deutsche Bank Collection

If they’re words, they can’t be understood. The letters don’t yield any meaning. Or do they? Slowly, very slowly, the eye adjusts to the strange leading of the lines running across Hubert Kiecol’s pictures that are hanging in the cafeteria of the ibc. At first, only fragments can be made out: the orange-colored cloud images in the background; the strange buildings with pointed gables that connoisseurs can immediately identify as the cement sculptures that helped the artist, who was born in 1950 in Bremen, to his breakthrough on the international art scene in the nineteen-eighties. Added to this is the row of letters that seems to run vertically rather than in the customary horizontal direction. This is all very unsettling, until the viewer realizes after some time that the letters actually join to form words, which go on to form sentences, or at least fragments of sentences.

View into the casino of Deutschen Bank's ibc building

As you begin reading, you are confronted with statements some of which seem a bit strange, and some of which are of the average, everyday kind: Entertain Alone can be read here, as well as Initials BB and Whispering Beings. Then there’s Proper Animals, Accelerator, Objectively Correct, and, more often than anything else, Agreed. Initials BB is a nice example: older visitors to the cafeteria might, perhaps, think of the Serge Gainsbourg song of the same name, that paises the sex appeal of Brigitte Bardot. Those around forty recall Boris Becker in the sense of "Boom Boom Becker," whose powerful stroke led him to his first win at Wimbledon at the age of sixteen; on the other hand, a younger generation will think of the B-boys of Hip Hop, the coolest brothers on the planet, or at least in the western hemisphere. And so while the interpretations sprout up everywhere according to age and disposition, the viewer has long since wound up exactly where Hubert Kiecol wants him: on the level of personal perception and association in which general impressions and banalities subdivide into personal meaning and manners of interpretation, influence, and memory.

Hubert Kiecol, Glückliche Maße, 2004
Deutsche Bank Collection

"You don’t have to show anything out of the ordinary, enough happens as it is," as Kiecol once stated many years ago. An entire floor is dedicated to his work in the twin towers of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. The sculptor, who has been based in Cologne for some time, became known to the art world with his house sculptures, small and even tiny schematic representations of typical German homes some of which will now quite possibly come under immediate threat after the new government cuts their tax benefits – those ubiquitous one-family homes that have left such a mark on the West German suburbs and villages on city peripheries that they can no longer be deleted from the collective memory.

Hubert Kiecol, Tisch mit acht Häusern, 1980

At the time, Kiecol built house sculptures in every size and shape. He created "buildings" from grey-green cement, which he sometimes painted over. In a certain sense, this series of sculptures was extraordinarily close to reality, because Kiecol used them to investigate every possible variation of everyday, extant construction: apartment buildings, office buildings, straight and tilted towers alongside bunkers left over from the Second World War, all of it in miniature. He used bricks and mortar for his larger sculptures as well as massive wooden beams and railroad ties. Later, materials such as glass and steel were added, which made his sculptures look almost like greenhouses.

Hubert Kiecol, Haus mit vielen Fenstern, 1984

Basically, the work is always about dealing with customary patterns of perception, clichés, interior and exterior images, and aesthetic experiences in an authentic, yet very playful way. Bremen, Kiecol’s city of birth, isn’t all that far from Holland, which is the prototype of a rigidly organized agriculture that is part state-run and part privately owned. The area around Bremen is one of the most densely populated country regions in Germany.

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