by Hans Dieter Grossmann
Hans Dieter Grossmann was born in Frankfurt in 1926. He studied painting and graphic design at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin from 1948 to 1952. He became a graphic designer and later art director for Telefunken and moved with that firm to Ulm in 1957. There he became involved with teaching special classes in painting and drawing at the University of Ulm (aka Research Institute for Practical Orientation of Knowledge), which was well known for its progressive avante garde approach to fine art. He has exhibited his traditionally-made work in Berlin, New York, Kansas City, Toronto, Bangkok, Washington and Stuttgart to name a few. He made his first "computer paintings" in 1996, winning awards for this work in 1998, 1999 and 2000, with shows in Frankfurt and Ulm
Herr Grossmann's first image presented here in the Museum of Computer Art is true to his statement. Done in the style of the watercolors he created just before he took up the digital tools, we see in this piece the polished rendering style of an accomplished artist, as well as an interest in somewhat symbolic and perhaps metaphysical themes. The drawing is tight and expressive and a fascination with applied paper texture is evident. In this piece, he is proving to himself that he can maintain control of his work with these new tools. In the subsequent imagery of this MOCA presentation, we see the innovation of new technique and the search for new motifs that he rightly senses must arise from the serious exploration of radically new tools.
This collection of work vibrates between abstraction and surrealism. While the forms do not directly represent recognizable objects, there is a mysterious, deep connection to them. Many times these shapes appear to be bits of fabric blowing and twisting in the wind. I have seen these shapes in the limp drapery and bellowing garments depicted in some of Salvador Dali's work or the sensual petal shapes of Georgia O'Keefe. Combined and contrasted with sharp geometric shapes, these forms seem to burst out of still surroundings, as if the canvas has suddenly erupted or torn open. Ultimately I am left with the feeling that these pictures are of frozen moments of time, caught just after there was complete silence and just before chaos has completely taken over the picture plane.
Grossmann makes good use of certain filters and image manipulations, transforming an image until it juts out like a table or shelf from the surface of the painting. Painter's "Distorto" brush is employed to pull and push areas of color into streamlined shapes. Drop shadows repeat these forms and create a sculptural element that lends realism to the abstraction. Careful, controlled use of select bits of fractal imagery and vortex tiling are composited into the picture and do not overpower the imagery. In this way poetry is not supplanted by digital technique, but rather supported by it. It takes the control of a real master to not succumb to the flashy eyewash of multiple filters, whizbang brushes and textures, and wave upon wave of psycho-digital colors. There should be a term, perhaps "abstract surrealism," to describe Grossmann's work. There is insightful intellect, masterful control and quiet vigor here.
Grossmann's years in design have given him the awareness that an image on a phosphorus screen and a digital print are essentially two different things. According to him, he is continuously making proofs of his work on an HP Deskjet 999c as it progresses. When he finally determines that a piece is finished, he sends a photo glossy proof along with the file on a CD to his print shop. In this manner, he never loses sight of what is possible, keeping his eye on the final goal; which is a large format inkjet print of the work either on canvas or traditionally heavyweight (250 gr.) watercolor paper. These prints, sometimes up to two meters large, are then either stretched or mounted on foam board and presented and marketed as "one of a kind" art work.
My thanks to Ansgard Thomson for the communications and translations
needed to write this article. JDJ 12/10/00
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