Kaoru Usukubo | Hannes Beckmann (1909–1977)

July 09 – August 27, 2016

Opening: Friday, July 08, 2016 | 7–9 pm


The exhibition of paintings by the Japanese artist Kaoru Usukubo and selected works by the German-Czech artist Hannes Beckmann presents a dialogue of two important oeuvres that will be seen for the first time in Germany.

In the genesis of her paintings, Usukubo also uses digital media and engages with our ideas about abstract themes like the past and the future; aspects like time and space of such a large metaphysical scope that our consciousness finds it hard to grasp them. In her fragmentary, collage-like paintings that confront us with situations that cannot be assigned either to reality or completely to a dream world, Usukubo reflects on the functions and mechanisms of our thoughts, memories, and associations. 

Beckmann’s photographs enter into a dialogue with Usukubo’s paintings mainly through their emphasis on geometric structures. Both artists use representations, symbols, and free forms that raise different associations in the beholder. Beckmann, who fled to Prague in 1934, had until then studied with Kandinsky, Klee, and Albers at the Bauhaus in Dessau – thus his artistic work is closely linked to the Bauhaus tradition. László Moholy-Nagy, who through his experiments established the “New Vision” in photography and influenced the Bauhaus style decisively, was also an important influence on Beckmann. He experimented with photograms, collages, and multiple exposures, chose unusual perspectives and details. Usukubo‘s work is just like Beckmann´s above all determined by structural decisions. Whether it is a reflection on liquid, a small porcelain figure standing between pins on a piece of corrugated cardboard or various layers of images that develop in a technical and digital procedure as in Usukubo‘s paintings. The majority of the photographs by Beckmann presented in this exhibition show technical, perhaps scientific instruments just as Usukubo takes up technology as a theme. 

In the large oil paintings HH object 34 and HH object 47 we can make out children, wrapped, almost fettered with plastic tubes. While one of the motifs represents an inert and powerless child who had a plastic bag put on it‘s head, the work next to it shows a more active creature. Both works are rather oppressive, but here we see a child playing with the tubes. Is it perhaps being shown in the middle of an experiment gone wrong? With the development of science, we get increasingly bold in out attempts to enhance human senses and abilities artificially. But however sophisticated our tools and instruments may be, the limit is always our own ability: the human being using these instruments. “Hence, many people think that, if we expand ourselves, we would be able to perform even better. The expansion of human abilities has been and will be a big issue,” says the artist, subtly pointing out that our desire is also dangerous. The children become a symbol of humanity – caught in their desire for a virtual reality. 

Kaoru Usukubo (born in 1981 in Tochigi, Japan) lives and works in Tokyo. In addition to several exhibitions at Loock Galerie, her works have also been shown at Kunstverein Friedrichshafen, the Ueno No Mori Museum of Art (Tokyo), Mot/Arts (Tapei), and Next 2008 Art Fair (Chicago).

Hannes Beckmann (born in 1909 in Stuttgart – died in 1977 in Hanover, USA) emigrated at the end of the war to New York and became director of the photography department at the Guggenheim Museum. His work is today part of several collections, including those of the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (NY), the Busch-Reisiger Museum (Havard University), and the Bauhaus Archiv (Berlin) and has been shown by numerous institutions around the world. 

*Kaoro Usukubo: Interview with Friedrich Loock (2016)