The far side
Joachim Bandau, Solo Show
March 10th - May 10th 2016
Born in Cologne in 1936, and a student at the Art Academy of Düsseldorf from 1957 to 1961, Joachim Bandau has been making sculptures, drawings, and watercolors since the late 1960s which are at once close to figuration and abstraction, geometric and biomorphic forms, emotion and rationality. As embodied in The Far Side, though Bandau’s career encompasses two periods of seemingly conflicting styles, both nonetheless relay states of body and mind.
From 1967 to 1974, Joachim Bandau created imposing polyester structures which he mounted on wheels and covered with monochrome paint. Thanks to their rounded, sinuous shapes, these biomorphic sculptures with pipes and bolts in certain places can evoke medical equipment, mechanical organs, or sarcophagi and empty coffins. Although their shapes and smooth surfaces might make them appear to stem from science fiction, they are actually laden with a vision of alienated bodies at once protected and constrained by modern technology. One of Bandau’s main themes here emerges: contrasting tension between confinement and spatial deployment, with his sculptures’ potential for mobility here implied by wheels, and which he expanded upon as of 1976, with radically new means.
From 1976 to 1978, Joachim Bandau briefly retired from sculpture to devote himself exclusively to large-format black and white drawings of geometric, rectilinear bunkers. Bandau thereupon returned to sculpture in 1978, and replaced biomorphs and the technological means of his earlier works with strictly stereometric and architectural representations. He then created a new series of sculptures related to bunkers (1978-1980), consisting of wood covered with lead, with a few openings on their sides suggesting inaccessible space. Sometimes composed of several modules that can be grouped into compound ensembles or alternatively dispersed in space, these continuously floor-bound sculptures convey something remarkably distinct from the real world. They offer similar functions to real-life bunkers in terms of protection and attack, or retreat and expansion, and appear as if at once consumed by centrifugal, centripetal or otherwise highly adverse forces in a way that Bandau continues to use in various series of sculpture up to today.
Since this period, Joachim Bandau has indeed explored diverse possibilities for incorporating or excluding metal parts, which can be disbanded or assembled into self-contained blocks. Dispersed on the floor or attached to walls, these sculptures conceal more complex internal structures that are revealed when their parts are disassembled, as is the case with his Stelae series (1988-1989). Incessant motion from within to without, between withdrawal and spatial control, also suggested in Bandau’s watercolors on large sheets of white paper, created since the 1980s, and in which the artist spreads multiple layers of light grey paint in successive layers and juxtapositions, in solid black or fleeting rectangular strata. While shades of grey watercolor evoke photographic decomposition of movement, as if each were capturing successive movements of one block of color driven by incessant comings and goings in areas ranging from solidly opaque to more translucent. Similar to his sculptures, Bandau’s watercolors distill simultaneous sensations of contraction and expansion, the scope of which is both psychological and existential when expressing withdrawal or a demeanor open to the world.
Although Joachim Bandau’s works have often been compared to Minimalism, of which he was contemporary, this is a limited view. Indeed, while the declared purpose of purified, geometrical forms of Minimal Art involved release from emotional, anthropomorphic aspects, Joachim Bandau’s work heads the other way. Whereas the human body in Minimal Art is used as an instrument external to the works, it is at the very heart of Bandau’s pieces with regards to both physical and mental considerations. By reconciling rational thought with feelings, Joachim Bandau is the creator of emotional geometry.
– Sarah Ihler Meyer, art critic and independent curator