Win For Life
Opening: Thursday, December 14th 2017, 20:00
December 14th, 2017 - February 24th, 2018
It is not surprising that the equestrian statue has served as a means of publically honoring revered personages since classical antiquity. Horses for long embodied the extraordinary social status and power of its owner. So what is better suited than betting on a horse (a horse’s hindquarters!)?
The sculptures placed by Julian Stalbohm (b. 1980) on the gallery’s floor look like discarded teeth, but they are in fact miniature hindquarters of horses. They belong to a whole series of works that revolve around the artist’s fascination for games of chance. Deriving from photographs of such equestrian statues and racehorses and made of aluminum foam they are reduced in size to such an extent that they no longer exemplify anything of their original potency. Only their names remind us of their former potential.
Horse racing concerns a competitive sporting event that primarily the well-to-do can afford. Instead of making money, it involves prestige and recognition. Lottery scratch cards represent a different type of gambling. They are more an instrument of participation or equalization. Stalbohm has been collecting them for years during his visits to foreign countries. It is very possible that he has already „won for life“ and knows nothing about it. He enlarges the card instead of scratching them, mounts the prints on wood and overpaints them with silver scratch off ink. He then scrapes the surface until the details of the images and the text modules become recognizable. The true mystery, however, is not revealed, causing the works with their painterly impression to retain their suspense. The composition resembles an explosion of word and image fragments. The artist does not have control over their ‘pictorial genesis’ – the result is unpredictable in the truest sense of the word. As such, the power of chance is conveyed to the artistic practice.
Stalbohm is not concerned with winning but rather with human longings and the fact that they are followed only by the next disappointment. This linkage of emotions is particularly prevalent in gambling. Satisfaction is never attained, only new needs and desires for the next opportunity. The always somewhat trashy lottery scratch cards play with the desire for upward mobility on the part of the lower social classes. A car, a Caribbean vacation, a cruise. The win of a lifetime. Unlike advertising, lotteries are usually not permitted to rely on the suggestive power of images and their appearance must conform to strict regulations. The illustrations are not permitted to suggest potential (albeit very unlikely) riches or stimulate temptations. Creativity is thus severely limited. Hearts and daisies are okay, with the result that a very particular pop cultural pictorial world emerges here that is about as complex as a children’s book for three-year-olds.
Stalbohm’s prints are characterized by precisely this kind of comic-like, universally comprehensible visual language. This places them in the proximity of Pop Art. They have in common oversized illustrations, the occupation with the consumer world, and its dark side as well as the trivial motifs. Their visual timelessness allowed Stalbohm to design his own scratch cards and offer them to the German and Swiss lottery authorities. The process dragged on for a long while. Some interest was expressed, but because Stalbohm never received a final response, he considered the matter closed until he found his own motifs several years later on Swiss scratch cards. Even though he had planned it differently, the artist had successfully moved his Trojan Horse into position inside a very rigid pictorial regime and was once again surprised by his own work.