The Merchant House

December 14, 2021
Hilarius Hofstede
December 16, 2021–February 27, 2022
Lecture & opening: December 16, 3–5pm, with Prof. Jean-Michel Rabaté, in-person and on Zoom
Extended vernissage: December 17–18, 12–5pm
The Merchant House
Herengracht 254
1016 BV Amsterdam
Hours: Friday–Saturday 1–6pm

T +31 20 845 5955

The Merchant House is pleased to return to the visionary work of the Dutch multimedia artist Hilarius Hofstede. TMH will debut the artist’s print-media project in a gallery-wide installation of intentionally affordable epic prints, under the title A DEMOCRACY OF THOUGHT. The project expands on the themes Hofstede developed in his Paleo Psycho Pop magazine and stresses a conflation of perceptual and time horizons, an embracing of chance encounters, the force of the surreal, and the sense of wonder in one’s communion with the world. 

Not unlike Duchamp who cultivated dust for his mixed-media art, Hofstede has, for some time now, had the foresight to cultivate torn fragments of serious and trashy printed matter. Over the past year, he started to assemble these as mood boards for prints and possible digital works. These “billboards of thought” cohere as illuminating culture/nature tableaus, but it is their surface—rippling (and palpably so in these prints) with Hofstede’s signature jagged image boundaries, lettering, and odd colors—that play up the irrationality, raw meanings, and subversive humor essential to his art. The number of works in the show is over 40, and though uniform in the method of creation, each is without a formula and sharp in effect. 

In the profusion of cut-up imagery, one can find, depending on the work, a great European painting and a food staple set side by side; Polynesian ornaments or animals in nature and in captivity; Amy Winehouse (in one of the portraits published just after her death) covered in rose petals like the Roman goddess Cybele; Paleolithic hand-imprints (in focus as some of the first images ever made) and the doll hands of Arman; distorted portraits of Van Gogh, Elon Musk, and of John Calvin among many others; George Clinton and Albert Einstein as universal shamans; images of such food brands as Calvé Peanut Butter or Campbell’s Tomato Soup (with links to both John Calvin and the city of Compton); evocative bits of titles, ads, and quotations; and references to natural disasters and technological feats, to LA gang wars and to wars and cultural events in all their forms.

Hofstede starts with the familiar notions of the interchangeability and exchangeability of everything in our image-mediated lives, with a scathing critique of mass culture. But the surprising relations he ends up with suggest slippages of any rational or linear interpretation. As each work develops, it acquires a particular plastic form and gives rise to a fabulous (and not necessarily dystopic) landscape rich with new meanings, liberating like in a dream.

A prolific and imaginative writer no less than a visual artist, Hofstede will present, during the course of this exhibition, his new polemical book Pop Killer (November Editions, Berlin, 2021), which once again fuses prose and poetry, fiction and autobiography. Pop Killer completes the trilogy with his two earlier books of unconventional narrative, De Markies van Water (Zip Books, San Francisco, 2018—20th Anniversary Edition) and Microsoft Mon Amour (Zip Books, San Francisco, 2017). In the fiery interplay of the optical, discursive, and rhetorical, the exhibition at TMH and these texts underscore the artist’s unique gift for giving voice to our primal dispositions, which, according to him, “haunt the human heart.”

Hilarius Hofstede (1965, Netherlands) is an unparalleled innovator and versatile interpreter of the conjunctions of nature and culture, working with paper, assemblages, texts, and music. His museum-wide collaborative interventions were seen at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, 1999, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, 2003, and the Musée de la Chasse in Paris, 2012. He is the founder and mastermind of the traveling festival the Bison Caravan.

The Merchant House (TMH) presents contemporary art projects with sales of art as a funding strategy. Each project, curated by TMH’s Founding Artistic Director Marsha Plotnitsky, brings together an extended exhibition, cultural and research events, and a dedicated catalogue/artist’s book. Program funded by art sales.

RSVP for Hilarius Hofstede: A DEMOCRACY OF THOUGHT
The Merchant House
December 14, 2021

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