Located in the midi-Pyrenees of Southwestern France is the historic hilltop village of Auvillar where I spent a few glorious weeks this past August as an artist in residence through the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), an art residency program that hosts several international residencies outside of their equally beautiful home base in Mt. San Angelo, VA. This is where I got to know three wonderful artists who all happen to live and work in New York City. Two were visual artists Marietta Hoferer and Michael Kukla (who are married), and the other, a poet Lynne Potts.
When one first walks into Marietta’s studio, you might think she hasn’t been working at all. The walls are bare with seemingly blank small to medium sheets of white and black paper. Her two worktables are absent of any activity and yet are stocked with a variety of scissors, post-it notes, and multiple rolls of different kinds of tape in various gradations of white. No paint, no brushes, no drawings, no mess. Anywhere.
However, as if hiding in plain sight, her work appears before the viewer in glistening shards of reflective tape, cut and composed to create sophisticated systems of geometric shapes, lines and patterns that pay homage to a mathematical form of expression that is at once distant and elegant as they are profoundly intimate. The influence Agnes Martin has on her aesthetic is undeniable. Even the initial grid pencil lines are left exposed to comingle with the layering and built up pieces of tape that immediately recall Sol Lewitt. All the intensity and labor that is absent from the physical studio is embedded in her method of working that requires a huge amount of planning. Yet opposite of Lewitt is the evidence of the hand. It is clear there is a deliberate intention to expose some of the quirky inconsistencies of each handmade cut yet in the end, the hand is quietly subverted by the bigger presence of supreme craftsmanship and the subtlety of the pattern remains steadfast in its mesmerizing, if not obscured elegance.
Marietta found her language and expression through the use of tape. She tells the story of going into an art store in New York City for the first time after moving from Germany, her country of origin. It was an exciting and overwhelming feeling of possibility as she perused through all the varieties of tape displayed before her – unlike anything she had previously seen. As she began to explore its properties, it made sense for her to begin by simply cutting them into angled pieces. These angular shards started to build out into the larger repeated motifs that create her sophisticated patterns that can be as small as an 8” x 11” or as large as a wall installation spanning several feet. Another important factor in her exploration was the delightful discovery of the quiet value shifts that exist between the varying degrees of white, beige and greys both in the tapes as well as in the tone and value of the paper.
“Hoferer chooses materials for their physical properties such as luminosity, translucency and invisibility, reflectivity, glossiness, mattness and frosted texture or because they age and discolor over time as in this series Field 1998–2006. Her choice of white only proves to offer unconstrained variations of “whiteness,” following in the footsteps of monochrome painters, most obviously Robert Ryman. She uses a great variety of tapes –Scotch brand, strapping and masking– that change in size and texture, translucency and reflectivity.”
Curator of Contemporary Art, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
Now back in New York, you can find Marietta working in her studio located at the EFA Studio Center in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. She is currently working on two exhibitions opening in 2012. This January, Material Occupation at the University Art Museum in Albany, NY curated by Corinna Ripps Schaming, and The White Show Part Two at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Pittsburg, PA curated by Vicky Clark. Most recently Marietta had a solo show at Galerie Gudrun Fuckner in Ludwigsburg, Germany (see installation shot). Black and White: Extreme Value, a group show where her work is included, just opened on Nov. 8 at The New York Institute of Technology at Gallery 61. The exhibit is up through Nov. 28, 2011.
The time in Auvillar was full of languid days and nights as I worked uninterrupted in my second floor studio overlooking a pastoral hillside farm. The comforting sounds of crickets chirping, dogs barking, roosters crowing and even the occasional yet unmistakable buzz of scooters speeding across the bridge over the Garonne River will be missed– and summer will never be the same again. However what does remain are the relationships that were made with these three wonderful artists. We shared a lot as a little family of sorts and we continue our dialogue as we are now back in the U.S. The experience from these art residencies always impress upon the importance of building an artistic relationship with other artists in the context of the studio — or at least in the context of their practice, which to me, is the most inspiring part of it all.
To see more of her work go to www.mariettahoferer.com