If Blum & Poe’s gallery one is thought of as the face of a clock, the first of Julian Hoeber’s nine acrylic varnish and sumi ink paintings, moving clockwise, would occur at 40 minutes past the hour. The final piece would be at 20 past. Cumulatively this suggests pictorial time that picks up near the middle and ends somewhat before the end, which thereby temporalizes our experience of the show as tenuous. Tenuous too is the Bridget Riley-like optical effect of each piece: a background of black concentric circles that at once float and hover both on the ground and above it. The moment we enter the gallery, then, corralled by empty wall space at the beginning and the end of the four walls, we plop in amidst 20 minutes of unaccounted time.
Hoeber’s lost time recalls St. Augustine’s conflation of temporal and absolute time. Each piece (all 2008) puts you in mind of a CD designed by Roy Lichtenstein with its caricature sketchiness, its grooves, its implied and constant whirring (which echoes the drone of the overhead lights). Hoeber works with the perpetual and circular flow of time. His images refer to things that are ephemeral: the carnal, the banal, the witty. He gives us a couple of Durer-esque nipples (Centered Tit, Toilet Breast); the physiognomy of a goofy, George Carlin-esque mug (Stupid Face); a kid’s drawing of a wedding; a reproduction of a Cézanne painting of two card players next to a sketch of the same piece which, when folded over, mirror each other (Cezanne Rorschach). Bullet-shaped holes perforate the surface of Fading Spiral with Holes), while a head centrifugally spins blood away from the center, to pool at the bottom in Head with Drips.
The theme of absolute temporality resumes in gallery two, with 10 polished bronze skulls in various stages of utter destruction. One head looks as if it were blasted with a mortar shell (they’re all untitled), so the skull looks like a crenellated crown. One lacks the entire back of the head, the face pocked with shotgun pellets. With jaws, chins, bridges of noses, tops of heads, backs of heads, and eye sockets variously disfigured with gashes, entry and exit wounds, they look like soft boiled eggs, placed in a holder, covered with a cozy, and then mauled with a jackhammer. Intact (and intimate) neck folds constitute Bronze Age versions of the draped marble folds of the Winged Victory of Samothrace; negative space (of which there is much, including mouths and eye sockets) describes shadowed irregular shapes, the purity of the opposing white wall, the floor below. The stainless steel pedestals reflect the viewer from the waist down as if to announce “You’re next!” as well as confirm the title of the show, “All that is solid melts into air.”
Collectively, these sculptures look like death masks cast from Aztec sacrifices. Each embodies the magical absurd-beyond-belief-because-it’s-so-true realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Along with the contents of the first gallery, they suggest a serially surreal Day of the Dead, laden with art historical references (Op Art, Pop Art, Cézanne, Abstract Expressionism). They are a grand way to garner our attention to matters beyond our quotidian ken.