Markus Huemer: Answers Don't Fall from the Sky, Either

19 Feb – 4 May 2009

Answers Don’t Fall from the Sky, Either is the title of the first exhibition of Austrian artist Markus Huemer organized by the Czech not-for-profit institution. The exhibition comprises fifteen medium to large-size paintings and two projections installed in four galleries of the DOX tower building. Huemer employs both traditional and new media – painting on one hand and digital technology (including projection) on the other – but his main distinction is in the way he connects the two. As many contemporary artists still grapple with the issue raised by Walter Benjamin in his classic “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), particularly how photomechanical reproduction changed the status of the work of art, Huemer takes a further step to question the status of painting in the age of electronic images.

Huemer argues that the abstract nature of digital images undermines the legitimacy of the modernist aesthetic, which puts a premium on abstraction. Unlike many other contemporary artists, however, Huemer does not find in the spread of electronic images a reason to reject painting and dedicate himself exclusively to new media and technologies. Rather, he seems to try to recuperate painting from the ruins of modernist aesthetic and to find a place for it in the present visual environment – one shaped by both earlier traditions and new imaging technologies.

In some cases, Huemer directly engages iconic works and artists of the second half of the 20th century, such as Jackson Pollock and Sigmar Polke. He questions their principles and premises by simulating their paintings using current technologies, including the Internet, video projection, and digital processing. Alternatively, for instance, in the works presented at the exhibition Answers Don’t Fall from the Sky, Either, he is making use of similar hybrids to take on the established representational motifs – the tree and forest, associated with traditional painting – and uses ironic and subversive titles that lampoon claims and expectations associated with both traditional and modernist painting and the role of the artist in those respective contexts.

Huemer’s work thus advances exchanges between different pictorial traditions and calls for a continuous dialogue between painting and new imaging technologies. In this respect, the title chosen by the artist for this exhibition can be understood not only as a lightly ironic and subversive nudge, but also as a matter-of-fact reminder that today’s world of images is more complex than ever, that it often requires more than simple answers and explanations – it calls for our continuous learning and engagement.