The reason why Eberhard Havekost is farther towards doom than Tuymans or Richter is he does not allow as many touchstones, as many meaningful breaths of meaning in the swirling turbulent ocean of broken images. In Richter’s Atlas of photographs, for instance, we find the personal and the political mixed with the banal (and the same goes in Tuymans’ canon of imagery as well). To extend the issue to photography, even Thomas Ruff, that priest of the particulars of how photography carries meaning and then carries meaning away, finds a strange human animation in his jpeg series.
Though similar in effect to all of his other painted black and white photograph interventions, Richter’s Uncle Rudi, 1965, for example, has just enough symbolic registers (that uniform, the cocked hat) to complete a number of humanist goals—the reanimation of repressed history, the acknowledgment of a terrible truth, the ability to get at real historical meaning through art, accomplishing what neither the photograph nor a straightforward representation of the photograph could have done on its own.
Similar truths, strangely, come forth in the obscured and minimal paintings of Tuymans of horrible moments in the history of Belgian Colonialism or America under Bush; he even can find truths in a corporate boardroom. Finally Ruff, perhaps the closest to the world of Havekost overall, finds in his jpeg series, a moment where enlargement in the photo studio of low-grade internet images can lead to strangely reanimated content of desensitized images of 9-11 and the bombing of Bagdad. Through not initially knowing what we are looking at and working to discover what we see, we remember things and events that were lost. Real events. Real transmission. It isn’t perfect one-to-one, representation = everything, but it serves a good function.
Eberhard Havekost, Take Care, Installation View.
Havekost, on the other hand, leaves me troubled and adrift, without an anchor in world of flooding images. The specters that some commentators detect, for me, come without bodies and without names, like the afterglow of an image that I did not quite see. The noble failure that other commentators detect is not, in the end, noble enough for me. Havekost is a different painter from Richter and Tuymans, absolutely a singular voice, but he is not necessarily a voice I enjoy dwelling upon.
However, I cannot entirely say this with a straight face. There is Spiderman, Solitude B09/10.
This beloved character, a superhero, stands, cropped at the knees, bent forward as if examining something, the stark whiteness of the background giving forth no information. Spiderman is a spectacle figure, a pop icon, a character with an entirely known mythology. He is Peter Parker. He’s an enigma. He is both.
Havekost, in brilliant fashion, gives us an image of a pop figure that is decidedly not pop—this is no Warhol Superman, this is no Polke broken screen. Spiderman is not allowed glory yet he is not allowed disgrace either, he just stands somewhere between the known and the disguised. The painting itself, how it is employed, its coyness, its pale shyness, is an unusual metaphor for such a recognizable pop figure. The touchstone here, a known entity of culture, is thus reanimated in a new and unusual way. This is a good painting.
Top Image: Eberhard Havekost, Solitude B09/10, 2009-2010, Oil on linen, 47.25 x 31.5 in (120 x 80 cm)