January 28, 2023

Although her works on paper were often based on rules and repetition and she had a close friendship with Sol LeWitt during her years in New York, the German artist and composer Hanne Darboven (1941-2009) never quite fit the indissoluble designation of the art academies of the “conceptual artist” “. Her sprawling, rhythmic installations of doodles and calculations, accompanied by photographs and objects, often filling entire rooms, exhibit human imperfection as well as mathematical accuracy – and can reach epic proportions as they accumulate historical and personal details.

Five years after the Dia Art Foundation presented its magnum opus “Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983”, Darbovens New Yorkers can rediscover art in Petzel, which has filled the salon floor of his uptown gallery with the installation “Europa 97” made from 384 sheets of paper . On each day of 1997 Darboven headed a page with the date and the word “today”. Below it she repeated the digits of the day, month, and year; She usually wrote the numbers in a single column, but at the beginning of each month she filled the page with a matrix of numbers. After completion, the drawings of each month were arranged in a 4 x 8 grid, with the remaining spaces being filled with a photo of a German license plate, which in particular was zoomed in on the blue and yellow European flag on the left of the sign.

From the title on, Darboven analogizes the progressive numbers of “Europe 97” with a different kind of progress: pan-European democracy, five years after the founding of the European Union in Maastricht. But this work never illustrates the events of the year or gives any indication of its political hand. On May 2nd, Tony Blair took power in Great Britain after 18 years of conservative rule. Darboven simply recorded the date and repeated its digits. At the beginning of July, intense rainfalls led to floods in Poland and the Czech Republic. Darboven noted the date and repeated his digits. 1997 could have been as dramatic as 1789 or as memorable as, I don’t know, 1372. It doesn’t matter. This is an ahistorical look at history; It is not the events that matter here, but the ideals.

In other projects, Darboven calculated sums from a specific date, month, day and year and added their digits to a habitual, meditative personal arithmetic. In “Europe 97”, however, nothing is charged. She just writes the word “numbers” and lets them tick: 10 4 9 7, 11 4 9 7, 12 4 9 7.… Everything that is depicted is a humanistic ideal – a promise that she allows in art Tried to embody, and also looked embodied in these yellow stars on a blue background. JASON FARAGO