The Atom is Invincible
Adelhyd van Bender

24th February – 12th April 2018

  • untitled, Folder #51, mixed media on photocopy, 42 x 30 cm

On February 24th, Delmes & Zander will officially open a new gallery space in Cologne on Lindenstrasse 20-22. The space is of historical importance: emerging from the culturally optimistic mood of the late 1960s, it was the first German "Galerienhaus," a collective gallery building housing innovative names from across the contemporary art scene.

The move to a new space is a natural progression in the work of Delmes & Zander and arises from the intrinsic need to accommodate the comprehensive bodies of work represented with the breathing space they require to be fully grasped in their complexity and their magnitude. The new room partition of the gallery space provides a more appropriate setting for the artist estates which have become an increasingly important focus of the gallery program in the last years and which can now be accessed and assessed more directly by students, curators and collectors. The new visibility of works such as Type 42, Margret - Chronicle of an Affair, Horst Ademeit or Adelhyd van Bender, now permanently shown in a separate project room, promotes a new dialog and consequently a possible reappraisal of the works on display.

The visibility of the new premises will also continue to foster the transparency of the gallery work itself: to study, to archive and to recontextualize works which are often left behind without instructions and which rely on the gallery work to become perceptible, comprehensible and to be experienced by a public.

The spectacular archive of Adelhyd van Bender has been a challenging body of work from the onset and its assessment an ongoing process for the gallery revealing unexpected angles and new insight into the work with every show since it was first exhibited at the Independent in New York in 2015, shortly after entering the Delmes & Zander program.

Spanning over thousands of works on paper, which were collected meticulously in folders over a number of decades, this body of work can best be comprehended when understood visually in its overwhelming dimension. Making the work visible is thus an essential element in its exhibition. In "The Atom is Invincible" the gallery invites the visitor to a closer look at a selection of drawings and at the archival systematics in the shelves inherent to Adelhyd van Bender's life-long project. Bender's unrelenting endeavour to break down the world into mathematical formulae positions his oeuvre at the oftentimes disorientating intersection between science, religion and philosophy, where his systematic approach in the treatment of knowledge is undermined by an undercurrent of mental association. Biographical data is intertwined with the spiritual and the mechanical in an artistic practice, which Bender often saw as an sisyphean drudgery, an eternal chore forced upon him by a higher authority. Backed by the belief in the methodology of science and legitimized amongst others by the writings of the Watch Tower Bible- and Tract Society in Mankind's Search for God (1990), Bender's quest is the search for a logical and cohesive scientific superstructure and essentially an attempt to explain god.

Adelhyd van Bender was born as Harald Friedrich Bender in the German town of Bruchsal in 1950. At 15 he runs away to the industrial city of Ludwigshafen, where he lives in a juvenile home. Three years later and with a completed apprenticeship as an electrician, he moves to Berlin where he enrols in night school in 1974 to complete his secondary education and is subsequently admitted to the HdK (Berlin University of Arts). In 1976, he is expelled after a persisting dispute with the academic administration. Convinced of his aristocratic bloodline, Bender travels to England in pursuit of his ancestry. He now goes by the name of Adelhyd van Bender. Bender returns to Berlin in 1977 and intensifies his artistic activity: over a decade he draws, he creates bomb-like objects, he paints with tars, oil paints, chemicals and solvents on wood and cardboard. A fire set off by combustible materials stored in his apartment destroys part of his work in 1987, yet the scope of Bender's oeuvre continues to expand and by 1999, a large part of the oeuvre is transferred to the Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg so as to prevent Bender's 4th floor apartment to collapse under the weight of his work. By this time Adelhyd van Bender has radically turned to a repetitive technique of incessant drawing, photocopying and reworking his paper sheets. Adelhyd van Bender dies on April 2, 2014 in Berlin.