Deutsches Haus at NYU presents a conversation between Marc Pachter and Heide Hatry on “Grief and Art: An Uncomfortable Conversation” in the context of Heide Hatry’s current exhibition “Icons in Ash” at Ubu Gallery. Oriented around the general theme of death, this conversation will address a wide range of questions: personal, philosophical, aesthetic, and cultural that death and art inspire, including what for the artist Heide Hatry has been the most tortured, and at times even crippling, issue throughout the many years she has been moving toward this deeply personal body of work, namely, how can a German artist (presume to) make art from the actual ashes of human beings? The conversation will be followed by a question-and-answer session, and copies of Heide Hatry’s new book “Icons in Ash: Cremation Portraits” will be available for signing.
Marc Pachter is a cultural historian who takes a particular interest in American/ European cultural relations. He is Director Emeritus of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and launched his interest in biography as a literary form as Editor of Telling Lives: The Biographer’s Art (New Republic Press). He was called the Smithsonian’s “Master Interviewer” when awarded the Institution’s Gold Medal. Pachter lives in New York, Bangkok, and Berlin.
Heide Hatry is a New York based German artist, often described as neo-conceptualist, whose work transforms, transcends, or transgresses the customary relationship of artist to both audience and art. Among her fundamental preoccupations are identity, gender roles, the nature of aesthetic experience and the meaning of beauty, the effects of knowledge upon perception, and the human exploitation of the natural world. She studied and taught art at various schools in Germany while simultaneously conducting an international business as an antiquarian bookseller. She has curated numerous exhibitions, has shown her own work at museums and galleries around the world, has created nearly two hundred artist’s books and edited more than two dozen printed books and art catalogs. Skin (2005), Heads and Tales (2009), and Not a Rose (2012) both document her own art and amount to collaborative conceptual artist’s books involving some of the most interesting thinkers and authors in the world.
Review in Art in America
Tapping one of the oldest and most basic artistic impulses, the twenty or so works in Heide Hatry’s “Icons in Ash: Cremation Portraits” commemorate deceased individuals in a fashion that is in some ways orthodox, in others conceptually striking. Black-and-white representational images eerily evoke specific persons, a few famous (e.g., novelist James Purdy), most not. The likenesses, based on photographs, are subdued and respectful. But the primary material-the cremation ashes of each subject portrayed-brings either solace or unease, depending on the viewer. Since these examples from an ongoing project are all commissions, it’s likely that the pictures’ owners feel an enhanced comfort, a stronger connection to the departed, by virtue of the substrate. Hatry, a German-born artist and former rare book dealer who moved to New York in 2003, is known for projects with a certain queasiness factor: large dolls covered in humanlike pigskin, flowers made from animal parts. Like many of her series, this one is accompanied by a volume of reflections by noted writers and cultural figures-Siri Hustvedt, Jonas Mekas, Rick Moody, and others. -Richard Vine