Artforum International, March 1996,
By Justin Hoffmann
Galerie Six Friedrich
In Stephan Huber’s recent show, the voice of Marcel Duchamp, speaking in the last interview he gave before his death, emerged from behind a closed door. Although the door in fact led nowhere, this piece was meant to usher the viewer into the world of the artist’s childhood in Bavaria. An obvious reference to Duchamp’s famous last work Ètant donné: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’eclairage, 1946-66, the object of desire beyond the door was simply Duchamp’s own words, rather than the supine body of a naked woman.
A second door, also leading nowhere, appeared on the same wall, and barely audible sounds seemed to emerge from behind it. This installation was entitled 3 Zi. Whg. f. einen Künstler mit 43 Jahren (3 rm. apt. f. 43-yr. old artist, 1995); Huber is, in fact, at the age of 43, perhaps just at the right moment in his career for a retrospective. In this light, the imaginary rooms beyond the two doors could be interpreted as representing stages in the artist’s life the vague murmuring that penetrated the space from the second door perhaps standing for an uncertain present, and Duchamp’s interview representing the culmination of a career and the specter of death. The gallery space, on the other hand, evoked a return to childhood, referencing in particular the hat factory once owned by Hubers’ parents. In the middle hung a piece called Ichkuppel (Ego dome, 1995), an oversized man’s hat that inevitably called to mind a child’s attempt to wear the much-too-large hat of a grown-up. A woman’s piercing voice emerged from inside the felt, saying things like “You need our help. You’ll fulfil our hopes. You receive our protection” the well-intentioned but vaguely ominous appeals of a parent to a child.
Ichkuppel was not the only intervention into the gallery space that made use of a bold distortion in scale. By sealing off a wall opening, Huber also created a doorway to small that adults were forced to crawl if they wanted to pass through. Beyond this opening one found a cross, constructed of wooden planks and concrete and reminiscent of crucifixes often found in the part of the southern Alps where Huber was born. The cross lay on a base that was also cruciform in shape, and one of the base’s sides was open, exposing what at first glance appeared to be frozen mass of some organic material. On closer inspection, one discovered that this was in fact a concrete relief reproducing the peaks and valleys of the artist’s birthplace.
Huber’s new pieces signal a return to themes has used in the past: the oversized hat, for example, also appeared in his assemblage Arbeiten im Reichtum 7 (Works in wealth 7, 1983), and his use of recorded voices and disconcerting spatial relationship recalled his 1983 installation Ich liebe dich (I love you). This show thus marked a renewed effort to transform ordinary objects to such an extent that they can unleash a whole spectrum of imaginings.