A DEMOCRACY OF THOUGHT
16 Dec 2021 – 6 Mar 2022
The Merchant House is pleased to return to the visionary work of the Dutch multimedia artist HILARIUS HOFSTEDE. TMH will debut the artist’s print-media project in a gallery-wide installation of intentionally affordable epic prints, under the title A DEMOCRACY OF THOUGHT. The project expands on the themes Hofstede developed in his Paleo Psycho Pop magazine and stresses a conflation of perceptual and time horizons, an embracing of chance encounters, the force of the surreal, and the sense of wonder in one’s communion with the world.
Not unlike Duchamp who cultivated dust for his mixed-media art, Hofstede has, for some time now, had the foresight to cultivate torn fragments of serious and trashy printed matter. Over the past year, he started to assemble these as mood boards for prints and possible digital works. These “billboards of thought” cohere as illuminating culture/nature tableaus, but it is their surface—rippling (and palpably so in these prints) with Hofstede’s signature jagged image boundaries, lettering, and odd colors—that play up the irrationality, raw meanings, and subversive humor essential to his art. The number of works in the show is over 40 (from a base of more than 200 to date), and though uniform in the method of creation, each is without a formula and sharp in effect.
Open weekend with Amsterdam Art, 21-23 Jan 2022 / Extended vernissage, 17-18 Dec 2021 / Lecture + opening (in-person and on Zoom) with Prof. Jean-Michel Rabaté, 16 Dec 2021
In the profusion of cut-up imagery, one can find, depending on the work, a great European painting and a food staple set side by side; Polynesian ornaments or animals in nature and in captivity; little Asian girls asleep on the back of a pig; Amy Winehouse (in one of the portraits published just after her death) covered in rose petals like the Roman goddess Cybele; Paleolithic hand-imprints (in focus as some of the first images ever made) and the doll hands of Arman; distorted portraits of Van Gogh, Elon Musk, and of John Calvin among many others; George Clinton and Albert Einstein as universal shamans; images of such food brands as Calvé Peanut Butter or Campbell’s Tomato Soup (with links to both John Calvin and the city of Compton); evocative bits of titles, ads, and quotations; and references to natural disasters and technological feats, to LA gang wars and to wars and cultural events in all their forms.
Hofstede starts with the familiar notions of the interchangeability and exchangeability of everything in our image-mediated lives, with a scathing critique of mass culture. But the surprising relations he ends up with suggest slippages of any rational or linear interpretation. As each work develops, it acquires a particular plastic form and gives rise to a fabulous (and not necessarily dystopic) landscape rich with new meanings, liberating like in a dream.
A prolific and imaginative writer no less than a visual artist, Hofstede will present, during the course of this exhibition, his new polemical book Pop Killer (November Editions, Berlin, 2021), which once again fuses prose and poetry, fiction and autobiography. Pop Killer completes the trilogy with his two earlier books of unconventional narrative, De Markies van Water (Zip Books, San Francisco, 2018—20th Anniversary Edition)and Microsoft Mon Amour (Zip Books, San Francisco, 2017). In the fiery interplay of the optical, discursive, and rhetorical, the exhibition at TMH and these texts underscore the artist’s unique gift for giving voice to our primal dispositions, which, according to him, “haunt the human heart.”
Hilarius Hofstede (1965, NL) is an unparalleled innovator and versatile interpreter of the conjunctions of nature and culture, working with paper, assemblages, texts, and music. His seminal works are in many public and private collections. He has recently composed the lyrics for the album Mastervolt by the New York band Defunkt and is the author of the cult books De Markies van Water (1999), Microsoft Mon Amour (2017), and Pop Killer (2021). Hofstede’s museum-wide collaborative interventions were seen at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, 1999, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, 2003, and the Musée de la Chasse in Paris, 2012. He is the founder and mastermind of the traveling festival the Bison Caravan.