Ewerdt Hilgemann | Panta Rhei

Review

Ewerdt Hilgemann | Panta Rhei

October, 2010

That World War II had a profound effect on the German psyche is beyond debate; for German born Ewerdt Hilgemann (b. 1938) its impact pushed him towards a career in art, in which he has developed a deconstructive approach perhaps best described as methodically destructive. On September 10, 2010 Hilgemann will exhibit a series of imploded stainless steel volumes at Samuel Freeman.

Each of Hilgemann’s works begins with an establishment of boundaries within which the artist allows chance and irrationality to take hold. He begins by constructing a four or six sided volume from stainless steel sheets. Each meticulously finished piece is then systematically imploded as he removes air from it with a high-pressure vacuum pump. The results are startling—the pristine minimalist forms crush and wrinkle under the strain of an invisible hand. The steel’s surface remains blemish-free, its perfection remains in contrast to the contorted final shape. 

Such destructive creation is not a new concept for Hilgemann. His breakthrough came in 1982, when he painstakingly polished a nine-ton marble cube to mirror-like perfection, only to roll it down a hill near its quarry in Carrara, Italy. The resulting pocked surface and breakaway fragments delighted the artist, and found him subsequently repeating the act under varying conditions, and with a variety of materials. 

Prior to his upcoming exhibition at Samuel Freeman, Hilgemann has seen public success in Los Angeles; his work was recently installed on the corner of Rodeo Dr. and Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills, and in 2003 he was commissioned to place a series of pieces running down the center of Santa Monica Boulevard. That his imploded volumes find a particular resonance in Los Angeles is not coincidental. Much like the decimated manufacturing sector of Hilgemann’s post-war Germany, Los Angeles has seen much of its manufacturing industry emigrate overseas in recent decades. Viewed in this light, Hilgemann’s volumes play out as industrial vestiges—desiccated remnants of a once vital economy, and avatars of the consequential collapse of the industry’s robust social milieu.

Hilgemann’s new work will remain on view from September 10 until October 16, 2010, at Samuel Freeman in Santa Monica.