Heidi Bucher: The site of Memory
New YorkLehmann Maupin
April 25 – June 15
The nine works in Heidi Bucher’s The Site of Memory create an ephemeral movement like dried leaves picked up by a gust of wind. Every piece has a skin-like texture, some of which call to mind animal hides that have been distressed, beaten, dried out, hung, and weighted down. The work projects a sense of quietness in spite of its large scale, and the colors that define it invoke a sense of bruises on a body. Bucher created these works when she was in her 50s, during a time of significant change in her personal life as she separated from her husband and withdrew into a phase of relative solitude.
One particularly striking work is Elfenbornhaut, Fridericianum, Kassel (1982). There is an image formed from the embossment of the material: a wall of bricks appears embedded in the rough surface of the work. Bucher’s layering of materials over a wall, formed one brick at a time and then peeled away, leaving its mark on the material, stresses the absence that provokes a presence. The work functions at the scale of one’s body; as I stood before it, I became aware of how small I am.
Elfenbornhaut, Fridericianum, Kassel contains the transmission—like most of Bucher’s pieces—of the people who have left their mark on the architectural formation. These nuances are like the tracks of a rabbit in soil or the birds on the walls of the Lascaux Cave. There is a heaviness generated here, a physical one and an emotional one.
Elfenbornhaut, Fridericianum, Kassel is made from latex, textile, and mother of pearl pigment. When Bucher made these pieces, working on an architectural scale was understood to be a masculine endeavor, and Bucher undermines this with subtle elegance in her choice of materials, which evoke traditional feminine qualities. Bucher’s choice of mother of pearl pigment and latex for a skin representation speaks to the ideals of what it means to be a woman: the feminine quality of pearls, wearing pearls, and the society that tilled that seed. By painting, and then peeling away the latex to create a kind of “skin” she is metaphorically “skinning” gendered surfaces, furniture, and clothing.
Bucher’s pieces Fenster mit Läden und Schindeln, Bellevue (1988) and Borg, (1976), depict the exteriority of domestic spaces closed off to the outside world. In Fenster mit Läden und Schindeln, Bellevue the windows are shut tight, and in Borg a door is closed and receded in an enclave. These pieces are all strong, but Bett (Bed) (1975) calls for the most attention. The mix of the soft shades of purples and nudes, soft pinks, and unbleached titanium furiously spread across the material exhilarates. Scalloping detail upon the sheets is mixed with the roughness of the dried latex. This bed holds secrets. It holds fulfilled desires, lost dreams, and certain realities. It is forever petrified to be hung upon a wall, to be stared at, to allow us to see our own memories and bodies. In works like this, Bucher’s work activates a consonance between body and mind.
The Site of Memory is just that, the existence of time, the collaring of home, shedding like skin cells. Her work calls the viewer to reach out and touch it with full knowledge that they won’t be able to enter. Bucher’s innate desires of expression leave marks like the tracks of an animal in the dirt or smoke billowing from a fire. These are the signals of interaction. Bucher’s skins are indices of the things she has peeled them from. They point to the clam and its simultaneous preservation and rejection of the pearl covered. Just as a pearl can develop from events leading up to preservation and rejection, as women, Bucher reminds us, so can we.