Joseph W. Huber, Joachim Thurn—Garantiert keine Montage, 1983 (from the series SCHILDERungen FS 028)
Exhibition Zentrum | 2.02.2007 - 27.04.2008

Joseph W. Huber

DENK-ZETTEL aus'm Osten
Joseph W. Huber was initially interested in producing postcards, in designing works of art that were so small that anyone could have them and carry them away in their pocket. He was not concerned with creating unica, but with small reproduced prints. Because printing postcards in the GDR was reserved only for state-owned publishers, the small number of copies the artist produced could in no way be referred to as such. Each printed card has to be ‘ennobled’ to the rank of small print by way of a signature. In the beginning, Joseph W. Huber signed the card with his full name, and, beginning in 1981/82, with his pseudonym Joseph.
Joseph W. Huber, (mit Tizian) - Der Zinsgroschen, 1984 (aus der Serie DENK-ZETTEL DZ 62)
Joseph W. Huber, ohne Titel (Bürger schütze dein Auto)

Joseph W. Huber, who was born in 1951 in Halle and grew up in the GDR, lived in East Berlin from 1959 until his death in 2002. After his training and briefly working as an offset printer (1968–72), he “refused an alienated working life” and eked out a living doing various jobs. At the same time he started visiting Robert Rehfeldt’s drawing circle, which had a decisive impact on his activity as an artist. In the early seventies, he turned his attention toward experiments with Op Art.

He designed his first small print in the form of a postcard in 1979. The acute cultural situation in the GDR after Wolf Biermann’s banishment and the increasing East-West confrontation were pivotal in his decision to begin producing satirical montages and photographs. He unexpectedly received permission to print his work Verantwortung (Responsibility), with the two dismissive hands. Had he not, it would have been impossible to print it.

Only few printers in the GDR were prepared to print these postcards, which were referred to as small prints at the time, because printers who worked for artists where immediately placed under observation. However, if thy were prepared to work for artists and convinced of the quality of the works, they were very committed and “could not stop the press quick enough.” The district administration originally authorized the release of ninety-nine copies, increasing the number to 250 in the mid-eighties.

Huber promptly produced additional works, such as Bürokratus Saurus, Materialökonomie, and Stabile Preise. He often implemented economical means that, although they appeared to be harmless, made direct reference to fundamental social problems. In the late seventies and early eighties, an acute environmental awareness had also developed in the GDR, although the state assessed the critical voices more as an “enemy attack.” Joseph W. Huber wrote the following under the photograph of a dead wooded area: “How to call out into the woods . . .,” or he declared the earth to be “non-returnable.” Several of the motifs from this series also appeared on posters or plastic bags. The exhibition also includes the designs for and the printing plates and stamping die molds used to produce the works.

The artist began his second comprehensive series SCHILDERungen in 1986. Using a camera, he captured signs that send a message out into the world but whose surroundings and context at the same time counteract their message. They provoke a smile or a laugh, even if often with a bitter aftertaste. The approximately ninety motifs in the series were primarily produced after German reunification and impart the atmosphere and the urban curiosities in East Berlin prior to 1989. They can equally as well stand for the situation in the GDR. Huber made prints of the beautiful tops of old mailboxes and manhole covers and was immediately suspected of damaging state-owned property. Yet Huber also concerned himself with Concrete Poetry, which is reflected in his Mail Art as well as in various contributions to magazines.

With his KARTE’LL edition, Huber trademarked his postcard production and had a larger number of his postcards printed. The Research Center for Artist’s Publications was able to purchase the approximately 170,000 small prints in Joseph W. Huber’s estate. Visitors to the exhibition can purchase individual small prints.


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