Benjamin Hochart, direct democracy of forms, 2018

Pedro Morais, in le Quotidien de l’Art, n°1457, march 15

There is no coincidence that for his recent exhibition at studio Pilote in Paris, the artist summoned two activists women: both the “politics of joie de vivre” by Ynestra King, an actor of eco-feminism (a movement that is the object of renewed interest with the publication Reclaim), and the famous sentence attributed to Emma Goldman, a major figure of anarchism - “If I can’t dance, I don’t want your revolution” - which served as its title.
For the main element of the exhibition, a series of banners titled Presidents·es, does not lack bite regarding representations of power and the crests of authority. If banners or flags are currently experiencing a new impetus in art, Benjamin Hochart expands their potential by asking the question: “What is it to represent?” Not really a people or a cause then, but our relationship to figuration. Inscribing his forms on fabrics ranging from toile de Jouy to wax, he borrows a panoply of figures allowing him to play with our anthropomorphic projections (Jack Nicholson’s grin in the Shining’s movie, silhouettes of a Rauschenberg poster for choreographer Trisha Brown, a Montessori teaching box or his own hands in hypnotist mode) and to affirm his cannibalistic taste for comic books and graphic counter-cultures.
Leaving behind his drawn deflagrations, the textile allowed the artist to pursue his attachment to the monstrous but, like his banner with an intestine, the ingestion took on a more ritualistic, animistic and transcultural dimension.

Marcadet - Quatre Chemins: Return trip, 2017

Andrea Novoa Rodriguez

I realized immediately.
My body became part [1] of the story from the beginning, without knowing it.
Or I didn’t want to know. And yet.

Summer went by by in joy, in anguish, in reflection. A season filled with writing and reading, watered with constant music, too loud on my headphones. A Florilège. The end was marked by the solar total eclipse on 21st August. Another one had occurred on 1979, the year I was born. I do not remember. I do not believe in coincidences. We are in 2017.

Anyway.
Me rushing down towards the 4th tube line inaugurates the rentrée. I put my headphones back on. I feel protected from everything around. Most of the time the music deafens the whole thing, faces [2] pass by, I hear no accidents de passager. Sometimes the bowels of Paris cut off my 3G and the anguish hits me again, the bodies next to me reappear, made of rust or bone. It is not ok. I’ve subscribed to a Premium Spotify since. I just have to rise the volume, everything’s gonna be all right.

Ground level, the sun shines. I fly over the city [3], I gallop my sound, my pace quick and rhythmic. I do not fit this set, my too-loud-music either. Guilty pleasure [4]. I don’t want this sound to stop [5]. The artist opens the door, we smile at each other, I miss his first words before stopping the protective app.
The studio houses images that are words and the words we pronounce all along become images. My thing with les mots et les choses, I realize that it doesn’t happen to me [6] only. Everything I see, everything that is said, foreseen, is something extraordinary that one only can find in everyday life, in public transports [7].
On the wall, a poster [8] with no year date on it is dated the same point in time as one of my texts. It makes me smile and I tell to myself that the fragments [9] coming out from this meeting, are a fair sequel of all our previous conversations.

We wave “see you soon”. I leave smiling and start my way back. I begin to write in my head the letter you are presently reading. I would finish it on the 20th September 2017 in Geneva while helicopters fill the sky of Barcelona and the Guardia Civil intervenes the Catalan Public Institutions in search of a future past that could be dated in 1936. Hope consists in waiting and all that arises from affection belongs to the epistolary genre, I so end my letter within a certain nostalgia, not sad, rather as in a madness of two.

PD: Still… I rise the volume again.

Andrea Novoa Rodriguez, september 2017

  1. Part of a social body that Benjamin Hochart shapes into woven, fuzzy, moving, terrifying, troubled, comforting forms. The artworks presented in this exhibition cross in a bold yet open way, the questions raised in all his corpus of work. Prints, fabrics and video stand for drawing, the source and language that he cherish.

  2. Those faces prefigure the Président.es series, which I am about to discover at Benjamin’s. Anna (Haifisch), Robert (Rauschenberg), Mike (Kelley), Maria (Montessori), up to 15 potential candidates the artist describes portraying a fragmentary reality, as much disappointed as in hope. His coast-of-arms seem to capture the nameless faces that one constantly meets, and for which we provide an original soundtrack, such I did myself that same morning.

  3. A certain feeling of overtaking invades us when looking at Benjamin Hochart’s work. Both as stakeholders and products, as protagonists and spectators of our world, he encourages us to become aware of it while keeping the doubt of this possible future - or not possible at all. Artificial intelligence, popular culture, science fiction, art brut, an array of subjects used to compose societal portraits. Alan Turing, you should have warned us!

  4. An irresponsible and yet committed gesture, superficial and feminist. Bad songs we listen to without admitting it to anyone. Joy of living. If I can’t dance in your revolution, I’m not coming. These words, never spoken by the feminist anarchist Emma Goldman, synthesize her thoughts and give title to the exhibition Benjamin Hochart presents at the Spatiu Intact Foundation from October 6 to December 15, 2017. Popular and scholarly culture come together in a single momentum.

  5. Acceleration of a society taken and frightened by the vertigo of its own speed. The codes of an era that Benjamin Hochart weaves to question them. Collection of soft winks to ugliness, his Président.es are assemblages of malaise, of rotten embellishment, of a seductive sick. Anthropomorphic soft shapes, its traces, take place on these contemporary blazons, blending epochs, imaginary and colors, and become political clamor. What is art?

  6. Benjamin Hochart deploys a language that masters the words and surpass them, translating them into images of all kinds, the reading of which reaches the most diverse minds.

  7. “In today’s Athens public transport is called metaphorai. To get home, one takes a metaphor - a bus or a train.”. Michel de Certeau in his book L’invention du quotidien (Gallimard, 1990).

  8. Poster for his exhibition Zombies Demain, that the artist presents a 17th April of an unknown year. The slogan «no love story, no hero, no heroine, no message, no questions, no answer» sums up the universe of the artist. In my head tickle the words «no future» (God save the Queen). The absence of a date hesitates to date the end of that future, gaining back the hope that so many «no» seem to exhaust.

  9. Consisting on animated images - or paintings to use the artist’s words - rather than been an animated video, Seul sur le sable is a mute piece with a high-pitched sound. A never-ending tale that passes by fragmentary and sewn, it faces the Président.e.s becoming its decor, like a wallpaper being for all and forever the same and its opposite.

News/Garden, 2013

Maxime Thieffine

For his second exhibition at M. & T. de la Châtre gallery, News/Garden, Benjamin Hochart extends the series of Dodecaphonies (inaugurated in 2007) and reactivates the method that determines their production. As a reminder, the artist chooses “a number of tools (pencils, felt pens, inks, spray) for which he decides on an order of use, each of which must be used once before it can be used again; moreover, a particular gesture is assigned to each tool” [1]. It is essential to go beyond this way of producing, recorded in the Répertoires, and richly commented on [2], to stop in front of the finished work and unfold its effects.

One could see in his large compositions a return of the French pictorial repressed, the one that the domination of American art since the fifties has obliterated: the new school of Paris (Wols, Hartung or Riopelle) and its American descendants (especially Joan Mitchell, Sam Francis or Mark Tobey). This art of expressive gestural energy and colourful composition has been eclipsed by Duchampian distance and calculation. But that would be too simple; it is clear that here the filling and saturation of surfaces are meticulously organised like marquetry or tapestry. Other avenues have been opened up between these two visions of art, too caricatured and dated in their antagonism.
We can no longer distinguish so clearly between the well-behaved irony that would rather think than look - art in Sunday clothes, we might say - and that other art, dishevelled or in charentaise, that cannot even speak. The stars of grunge now know how to wear a suit. We know how to deal with noise. The forms born of modernity have spread outside art, into popular culture (commercial or folk), which artists have in turn integrated. Moreover, Benjamin Hochart is not a painter, but a careful eye will be able to compare his work, his line and his gestures with an art of drawing that is both noble and uncluttered, the comic strip. Comics, cartoons, illustrated books, mangas, albums and fanzines have been a bath of freshness for artists like Dubuffet, Lichtenstein, Erró or Falhström. This universe allowed them to rethink (among other questions) the link between the pleasure of making and that of seeing.

In the first series of Dodecaphonies, spirals and volcanic efflorescences swarmed: crevasses, scum, clouds, tongues of fire, lightning, crystals, rain, sparks, radiation, all very dynamic meteorological, thermal and organic phenomena which, if they are imagined under the pencil of a comic book writer, must be reinvented visually, to tell a story or punctuate a page. In the new Dodecaphonies, foliage, feathers, wings, spirals, tentacles, corals, cells, fingers, tears infiltrate and appear more clearly in tones that are clearly acidic, tropical and radiant, aerial (and less telluric than in the past), closer to the Marquesas Islands, but after nuclear testing (or would it be even during it?)

These compulsive and extremely dense amalgams are more reminiscent of raw artists (such as Judith Scott, Augustin Lesage or Fleury-Joseph Crépin) or the bubbling of psychedelic noise music (such as Lightning Bolt and Brian Chippendale’s illustrations) or artists who play with the decorative (such as Atsuko Tanaka or Philip Taaffe). It is here the distinction with the expressionist painters of the 1950s is established, Benjamin Hochart practises cataloguing and the emergence of an autonomous and systematised language, of which Dubuffet’s Hourloupe is the matrix. He is as much into sampling and photoshopping (clipping, extracting, shifting, copying, variations) as he is into the invention of an extensive comic book box that the thick, graphic frames are meant to contain. A box where all the visual onomatopoeia, graphic outbursts, punctum, flashes and explosions that his retina has been able to memorise over the years would be printed: an exquisite corpse, but on its own. We thus lose the logic of the linear narrative to be in a total simultaneity and the hierarchical equality of all the elements.

The new series Threads (2013), created in duo with his partner, the dancer Marie-Charlotte Chevalier, seems to emerge and float in front of these tightly woven piles. Each thread stretched from floor to ceiling links different fragments of ceramic, glazed or not, which are the traces of gestures. Printed by four hands from a list of verbs derived from Rudolf Laban’s analysis of the factors of movement, they are linked in a vertical reading direction. Abstract sculptures, telegraphic sentences, recorded scores, these new climbing shoots emerge from the ground at the same time as these bits of earth rain from the sky. They underline the essential relationship of Benjamin Hochart’s work (drawn or not) with space and his particular relationship with the ground.

I like to think of this cartoonish situation, of Benjamin Hochart on his hands and knees on the pavements of New York, rubbing his A4 sheets of paper with graphite in order to preserve their imprint. I imagine him quite happy to come back with a backpack full of his findings at the ground level of the daisies, which he will then explore the material, the visual noise of the city, by enlarging these traces with a photocopier to A0 format for the Sols series (2012-2013).

His relationship with the textile and urban weave allows him to tighten the link between the top and the bottom, to mend the gap that constantly stretches between the ground, the dirty, the city and its cultural underground, its popular subculture, its adolescent withdrawal, its bad taste and the so-called high culture, those of paintings that fit on the wall. The artist uses procedures from comics, publishing and fine arts: the humble gesture of filling in and colouring, a systematised but capricious codification, paper but stretched on a frame, floating ceramics, magnified photocopies, a serial organisation of work as much as the handmade/do-it-yourself, a whole paradoxical personal mythology.

If we have to search for a link with the 1950s, we should look elsewhere: where cultural categories, under the impulse of American mass culture and its dissident movements, began to become watertight and blurred, when the avant-garde met comics and then punk. Benjamin Hochart grew up in this moment of stylistic contamination, like a sculpture by Tetsumi Kudo, similar to a mutant and bastard flower where the drawing of the comic strip has emancipated itself from the sheet and the album, where the line lives in space and in large format while remaining faithful to its energy and its imaginary reserve.

  1. “Le dessin par le milieu” by Johanna Carrier, in Benjamin Hochart, Ed. Adera, 2012
  2. See the interview of the artist by Joana Neves in the magazine Roven #3, 2010