Catalog Essay for “Annabelle and Robert Tiemann A&RT91
Museum Dhondt Dhaenens, Duerle, Belgium, October 1991
By Frances Colpitt, August 1991
Annabelle and Robert Tiemann have been officially collaborating since 1988, although Robert’s career extends back to the early sixties, with Annabelle assisting him since 1974. Central to the concept—and their work is conceptual by virtue of being about ideas rather than unique, handmade objects—is the denial of the artist as individual genius of master-creator. Their work originates in photographs, which they take from newspapers, advertising brochures, postcards or their own snapshots made during frequent travels in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The source of the photograph is often obscure and made further so in some cases y the application of a grid of dots over the image. The photograph or combination of photographs might be funny, mortally serious or absurd, or all three at once.
Their work speaks to the pervasiveness of the mechanically produced image, as theoretized by Walter Benjamin, which exists never as an original, but always a multiple. And so, the Tiemanns present their photographs as photocopies. The copies are mounted on wooden panels or laminated between sheets of plastic with grommets for hanging by pushpins, which underscore their ultimately industrial generation without rendering them precious. The offhand, flatfooted quality of the images and their presentation is a provocative antidote to densely political art, or at the other extreme, decoration; and the generally hand-held size of the work is conducive to a close read rather than the sweeping glance. The Tiemanns forge a bond of intimacy with each perceiver drawn into the orbit of their work.