Long overdue, the Heidi Bucher retrospective at Haus der Kunst was a magnificent display of an artist’s body of work the urgency of which has grown since the decades of their making. Bucher is best known for latex casts of spaces or their configuring surfaces that she began in the 1970s and continued until her death in 1993, a process that she called “skinnings.” Her earlier work focuses on the human body, which remains palpable through her handling of latex as skin and the kindness she extends to the sagging, wrinkling works in her shift toward the (seemingly) immobile, inanimate subject matter of architectural rooms and surfaces. She painted the liquid (reinforced by fabric) onto doors, floors and walls, ripping it off by hand once it had set.
Wandering among the cast-off spaces hung from the ceiling, visitors could enter spaces that nevertheless remained inaccessible. The skewed perspectives of molding lines and parquet tiles, the shifting light and not quite transparent surfaces let viewers question the stability, massivity and temporality often claimed by architecture as the product of a still male-dominated discipline. Instead, the beauty of aging fragile bodies is built into the honey-golden drapes.
Bucher’s (West Coast inspired and Swiss molded) feminist and political critiques are never didactic or performative, but embodied through her materials, techniques, and subject matters (textiles, latex, and patriarchical or fascist spaces, male bodies or pubic hair); they are precise, sharp and yet generous, a truly feminist work of art if you will. Concurrently, as with so many women artists who should be much better known, in the decades after her death male artists (re-)discovered latex as a material for architecturally leaning art works without bringing her foundational work into the fore. It is all the more commendable that the curators together with the Heidi Bucher Stiftung have not shied away from the immense complexity required to preserve, mount and curate her art, demonstrating Bucher’s incredible artistic depth and prescient urgency through her beautiful, inspiring and multi-layered body of work.
Heidi Bucher: Metamorphoses
Haus der Kunst, Munich
curated by Jana Baumann