September 9–October 29, 2016
Hanne Darboven is recognised for her ambitious and idiosyncratic body of work that operates at the limits of representation. Sprüth Magers presents the first solo show of her work on the West Coast since 2010 – exhibiting three of her monumental installations that knit together mathematical procedure, historical and cultural artefact, and autobiographical documentation in an attempt to record subjective and objective perceptions of time via a conceptually coherent visual system.
Darboven’s unwavering dedication to the representation of time began in earnest in the late 1960s after a stint in New York where she met artists Joseph Kosuth, Carl Andre and Sol LeWitt. Upon returning to her native Hamburg, she developed a formula for date calculations that would go on to structure her subsequent time-based works. Darboven’s early mathematical calendars were arranged in gargantuan wall installations that sought to quantify time in space. She explained her mathematical interpretation of time as a stance against social or political co-optation: unlike words, numbers refer to nothing beyond themselves, and it was this sovereignty that was so appealing. She described her methodology as ‘writing without describing’, and transcribing the passage of time became a meditative process that she applied herself to with the regularity of office labour.
Towards the end of the 1970s, Darboven began to punctuate her numerical tableaux with a variety of materials that grappled with themes such as the Enlightenment, mass media, technological progress, religion, politics, and the arts. Her use of photographs, postcards, objects from her studio, and quotations of texts ranging from Classical philosophy to the Frankfurt School, marked a shift in her practice from the abstract documentation of time toward a narrative interweaving of cultural and personal history.