The oeuvre of Stephan Huber (Lindenberg, Germany, 1952, lives and works in Munich) reflects his autobiographical and geographical background, that of the well-to-do-middle class in the South-German Alps of the Allgäu. Huber quotes and copies from the stock of forms from European art history, with a clear preference for emblems and metaphors from the Baroque period. The suggestive theatricality that characterizes many of Huber’s works, stems explicitly from the staging strategies from the Baroque period that saw the world as a stage and as a show. Huber combines those Baroque forms and themes with elements from the reservoir of everyday forms, particularly from his Heimat, the Allgäu.
Many of Huber’s works seem to be theatrical pieces of scenery in which he plays with the dimensions of doors and in which ceilings, walls and floors are tipped over, sometimes 90 degrees, then again 180 degrees, by which the artist literally turns perception upside down. Often the rosette, a status symbol representing the bourgeois variant of the original much more expensive oil canvas of the ancient masters, is figuring in those works. In some installations the rosette is suspended to the wall in consecutive rooms, every time a bit lower, so that the symbol gradually becomes an image of the setting sun and in this way refers to the evening and night, when things can quite run out of hand behind closed doors. The bourgeois interior as a place of instant comfort and ostentation becomes an offstage world in the stagings of Huber, that merely consists of facades and is a spot of subdued calamities. Apart from this the snow-covered, tranquil Alps landscape in which hardly any life can be perceived, is a classical painters’ theme, Huber’s large source of inspiration. The artist acquired an international reputation with his work Deposito po (1999) at the Biennale of Venice, an in-situ variant on Gran Paradiso from 1997: superwhite plaster models of the major tops of the Alps grouped together alongside which rivers from the same region are flowing in bright blue neon. From a formal point of view the mountains are pure sculptural forms, rich of plastic modulation. As to their content they evoke memories of mountain trips, paintings and photos, nice experiences a long way removed form the soft, tacit condition in which the actual mountain landscape is immersed and in which the sublime and ecstasy are contained, but also the catastrophic. In other works of pieces of scenery, so that the visitor is invited to enter the interior of the mountain landscape through doors that are much too low, not suspecting anything. Recently the artist made a study of classical cartography and subsequently created a large series of extremely fascinating maps of nonexisting continents, on which he gave shape again to the world in accordance with thematic arrangements. With those works, too, Huber elaborates on the Baroque works, to which the recreation of everyday reality was central, finally only restricted by death, that can not be controlled and can not be escaped.

For lustwarande ’04 Huber created a Baroque cloud that seems to be seized directly from the painting. The superwhite cloud is suspended statically between high trees and only sheds rain once a day, but in a symbolic way also harbours thunderstorms, cloudbursts and floods. Again Huber builds subdued calamities into his work, in a theatrical manner that is picturesque and beautiful in a threatening way.

Chris Driessen

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