The Storied Sight of Hubert Kretzschmar
by John Hood
The story goes like this:
A king, tired from long day’s hunt, stopped to rest beneath a tree. He soon fell asleep and had a vivid dream about his lover’s fan. Upon waking, the king resolved to build a castle on the very spot. From the new castle a town would radiate, spread out in the shape of the dream fan. The king’s name was Karl. The town would be named Karlsruhe, or “Karl’s Resting Place.”
Like Bentham’s Panopticon, the castle and town were at once monstrous and beautiful. The spines of the fan were Karlsruhe’s major avenues. Where they met at the fan’s base loomed Karl's castle, bristling with strategically-placed cannon. Thus were the town's folk kept in line and under eye. Karl’s final resting place was marked with a large pyramid, which stands to this day just outside the castle.
Karlsruhe, hard on the Rhine River and skirting the Black Forest, is a magical construct. In time, engineers would manage to harness the river, but the willful wildness of the surrounding woods remains uncollared since before Karlsruhe’s day.
Nor would the willfulness of Karlsruhe’s people be completely tamed. Hubert Kretzschmar was raised in that land of kings and forest. As a child, he played among the ghosts of the dense, dark woods and the river’s tributaries. As a student, he mastered the king’s symbolic iconography. As a New Yorker, an exile among exiles, Kretzschmar took those hauntings and symbols, made of them a totemic body traversing disciplines and made of himself a visualist of some repute.
Like a Liberatore in Weimar, Kretzschmar mines his cultural history while challenging its legacy of tradition. His is a vision of composite, of which Beckmann, Dix and the rest of the Republic regulars would approve. Picture Durer at the gates of the digital age; a happening along the clean lines of De Stijl, suffused with the raw irony of Dada; Surrealism’s fluidity matched with Pop Art’s reverent irreverence. Experiencing this work, we become aware of unconscious meaning imbedded in the stuff of everyday.