The Cuban-born Diango Hernández’s first solo exhibition at Capitain Petzel is entitled Komplette Zimmer (Complete Rooms) and encompasses all three levels of the gallery; it presents works specially conceived for the exhibition space.
Hernández always defines line in terms of an idea become form – and thus as the transformation of an abstract concept into real existence. In doing so, he does not privilege any of the found, often simple, materials that he uses in his work, including fragments of furniture, technical devices such as aerials or radio components and diverse artistic media. These serve to give visual form and assign value to the individual and improvised creative achievement in its contrast to rigid social and political systems.
Hernández fragments and reduces the reality that surrounds us. Through his often playful handling of apparently incompatible layers, he creates a new sensibility for the aspiration to and the necessity of individual freedom.
The main theme of this exhibition is the idea or thought’s materialisation and its becoming form through drawing: as a line on paper or transformed in three-dimensional space. Here, in a manner that is no less precise than it is poetic, Hernández raises the question of the concept of reality at the chronological levels of past, present and future.
The main hall of the gallery contains an expansive floor installation, entitled Granite and comprising 42 graphite-coloured, light and fragile sculptures. The striking use of line, realised differently in each object, evokes a densely spaced field of graves. And in fact, the contours here, translated 1:1 into the three-dimensional realm, do derive from production drawings out of a granite-industry textbook on tombstones (Granite, 1950s).
The transfer from the design of a gravestone as a monument to a human existence is further minimalised by Hernández. He transmits the drawing into space, and in this way – enhanced through the use of pure graphite on the wood-surface – he sketches the impression of a cemetery.
Hernández’s table installation in the lower level, entitled Silent Party, 2013, represents the ‘level of the past’. On each of the 60 paginated blank pages removed from a book from 1910 – which featured photographs of gravestones – there lies the more or less deformed clasp of a sparkling wine or champagne bottle. Over the course of several years, Hernández gathered these each New Year’s morning after the New Year’s Eve celebrations along the banks of the Rhine in Düsseldorf; he then archived them as artefacts of the numerous human encounters and the goodwill of this special night.
The three groups of works Komplette Zimmer (the title of the exhibition) occupy the cabinet in the first floor, along with a bronze object of Elements from a Thonet chair. These images show furniture ensembles from a 1954 catalogue of the VEB Möbelwerkstätten Hellerau, which, at that time, were sold only as complete set. They are transferred to canvas with pigment print. The original images are drastically vertically compressed to narrow strips, the furniture barely identifiable, becoming almost a line.
Finally, frame-like wooden constructions can be found on the walls of the gallery level; these can be referred back to closet systems’ arrangements of drawers and doors, hung with assembelage-like paintings on linen table cloths that have been unfolded and painted with watercolours by Hernández. These trousseau goods had previously been stored for decades in private households before being used – and perhaps unfolded for the first time – as supports for paintings and absorbing traces of colour. The contrast between the traces of time, deriving from the linens’ storage, and Hernández’s light and open painting offer a potentially optimistic perspective on the future.