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McIntosh Gallery Catalogue 1987
Reprinted from the exhibition catalogue; "Less of More - More of Less (PäS Plus — PäS Moins)"
by Uli Bohnen and Gerard Pas
Pub: McIntosh Gallery, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada. 1987.
(you can visit them by clicking here)
© McIntosh Gallery, The University of Western Ontario and Gerard P. Pas 1987.

* footnotes have been hyper-linked - just click on footnote number # and you will advance to it - to return to your place click on the footnote.
* to see more works from this 'Red - Blue' period of Gerard's production please visit the Galleries of or click here.

* für Deutschen Text: bitte Mausklick hier -- to read the original German text by Dr. Bohnen please click here.

The Artistic Development of Gerard P. PäS
by Dr. Uli Bohnen,

fig. 2 - Saturn, god of the sick, crippled and creativefig. 1 - Dream Meory of the Brace 1977Somewhere, in Karl Kraus' writings one can read, "My personal problems do not interest me". If this approach were more widespread, the artistic world would have been spared a great deal of unnecessary baggage.
On the other hand, we know that in spite of their general validity, many objective i.e. social and historical problems are experienced chiefly in a subjective way, for example, isolation and depression.
But what about physical handicaps? One might think that, except among the elderly and in wartime, these occur only in isolated instances. Are not traffic accidents, for example, social and specifically historical phenomena? What also were the 'Black Death", tuberculosis and polio? What about AIDS?
Nearly 200 years ago, Novalis asked, "Do not the best things everywhere begin with illness?" He further stated, "Our illnesses are all phenomena of an enhanced sensibility which strives to change into higher powers." Egon Friedell, in his cultural history of the modern age Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit, even considered the "Black Death", the midwife of our era and mentions numerous scholars, explorers and artists whose physical handicaps clearly triggered compensation in higher fields of endeavour.
It may seem odd for such observations as these to be prefacing a commentary on the works of an artist, but it is remarkable how much the first decade of the young Gerard P. Pas' artistic vocabulary is characterized by the theme of physical disability (fig. 1).
An overly superficial examination could convey the impression that here someone was putting his subjective disability on stage — albeit perhaps for the sake of pointing out the disability of all those forced to live in similar circumstances However, this was only true when Pas, as a small boy, was selected to be the Easter Seal representative (or 'Timmy ') used in generating financial donations for this charitable agency — a completely passive and scarcely self chosen part.
fig. 3 - Kunstledematen Performance 1979, De Appel, Amsterdamfig. 4 - Kunstledematen Performance 1979, De Appel, AmsterdamHis performances between 1977 and 1980, on the other hand, were his first active artistic interventions In his performance titled Kunstledematen (1979 - De Appel Amsterdam), (figs. 3, 4) the consumption at first pleasurable then increasingly agonizing of a cake bearing the word "Kunstledematen" (artificial limbs) written in icing sugar makes several points.
This action awakens associations with the questionable pity-sweetened love sometimes force fed to children especially if they are considered pitiable.
The central reference to artificial limbs contains an interesting etymological component in addition to the obvious biographical allusion, for limbs have long been, and in the English-speaking world still are, actual measurements. The units of length, ell and foot, for example, represent an idea of normality which uses the human body as the standard. One does not have to be personally handicapped to realize the destructive consequences of such an "anthropometry", understood as tending towards a worldwide applied standardization. Thus the socio-historical relationship of Pas' performances becomes evident.
We also have the obvious allusion to art in the phrase "artificial limbs". There is no need for long explanations to point out the critical distance between such a performance and the accepted idea of art. 1
It is no surprise, then, that eventually Pas had to vomit up this cake: enjoyment turned to disgust. Here we encounter another theme frequent in the work of Pas, regardless of the medium. Certainly, the above process can work in reverse, turning disgust into enjoyment. Such as when Pas, clad in a leather Punk Rocker outfit, (favoured by him at that time), stood in front of the Kingston Penitentiary, Canada  2 contorted his left leg around his neck behind his head, then, balancing on his right leg, precariously lit a cigarette — a thoroughly pleasurable and humorous overcompensation receiving additional symbolic significance from the threatening institution in the background fig. 5 - Un Autre Faux Pas ,1978. Performance,  Kingston Penitentary. (fig. 5).
 One typical reaction of the onlooker is the need for tension-breaking laughter, coupled with a trace of horror, which triggers an ultimately insurmountable feeling of alienation, as other people's physical handicaps are usually perceived. In his performances, Pas knows how to bring about an explosive confrontation of familiarity and distance within the viewer by making his own subjectivity present in an altered form of the onlooker's subjectivity, who then begins to objectivise it in himself.
In a somewhat more emotional form this is what Bertolt Brecht once called "the art of thinking in other people's heads". This process of objectification is, as Walter Benjamin describes, 3 consummate at the moment of estrangement and shock: but thanks to the accompanying humour, it does not necessarily have the manipulative character given to it in Brecht's statement.
The onlooker's autonomy is demanded more decisively in the face of a group of paintings and drawings which Pas produced between 1981 and 1983. The title of the exhibition, "Thesis Versus Antithesis" proves instructive and, at the same time problematic, particularly for a body of work created just after the artist's return from a stay of several years in Europe.
In the interpretations which Pas himself wrote to accompany those exhibits he writes that he has "in effect erased the Mona Lisa's moustache — as an anti-art campaign within the context of today's meaning of art". In fact, the landscapes (fig. 6) and 'still lifes' Pas painted during that time can be understood as a desire to return to a "pre-modern" state, erroneously considered idyllical, especially if regarded with reference to the effort of their producer to restabilize the conditions of his personal life. 4
fig.6 - Fork of the Thames 1983What may have prevented the visitor to this exhibition from receiving an overly exclusive impression of affirmation of this idyllically "pre-modern" state is the fact that Pas also presented a panorama of his earlier activities, as well as by juxtaposing recent paintings and earlier-photographed situations he made a question mark visible behind everything.
fig. 7 - (detail) Venus Versus Venus Vulgaris (1984)The works which Pas exhibited the following year (1985) under the title Beast///Beauty were generated by a comparable impulse. The installation Venus Versus Venus Vulgaris (fig. 7) presented there consisted of the juxtaposition of two painted panels hanging side by side and two photographs on the back: an illustration of Beckmann's self-portrait of 1917, next to a laughing young girl (presumably copied from a family photograph) are on one side of the panel; on the other side are photographs of a drug addict beside that of a dark-haired woman in a bridal gown.
It is not easy to identify Beckmann's self-portrait or the drug addict with "Venus Vulgaris" or the young girl or the bride with "Venus" — the latter because of their commonplace character. But one could think that this was the only intention of the artist.
In his own statement on being concerned with the rediscovery of the "beautiful" in the face of the undeniably ugly aspects of reality, there is still an — albeit insoluble — contradiction intended, which opposes a superficial harmonization. This becomes clearer in a combination of fig. 8 - (detail) The Cain in Abel - The Abel in Cain 1984-85 self-portraits going back to various biographical phases of the artist's life, particularly as seen in the title of the work The Cain in Abel — The Abel in Cain (1984-85) (fig. 8) which indicates that this tension would not end with a useless attempt to reverse the development of dialectics and to reach a synthesis by having antithesis followed by thesis. That would have been the way into the pluperfect tense.
With reference to Beckmann and the recourse to stylistic characteristics of Van Gogh in Pas' self-portraits, another highly contemporary aspect often apostrophized as “postmodern" occurs — the artistic quotation, or, in a wider sense, the homage.
The quotation, in whatever approving or rejecting sense it may be meant, derives its reflexive content at least as much from conceptual as from visual properties. An objectification thereby becomes necessary, for the quoting artist goes beyond his private expressional frame of reference, or even his obsessions, by (art-) historically reuniting himself, and thereby making his work the object of a general consideration. As a result, traditions are discussed, and not by the artist alone.
The above characteristic founded in the conceptual, as well as its application to other media or, where painting is retained, the transfer to other styles, distinguishes the body of work created by Pas since 1986.
Moreover here, for the first time, a balance of formal quality and relation of content arises. Though the theme of physical disability is continued in these works, the danger of moralizing was avoided. Rather, humour and irony come to bear, characteristics which give the installations Lourdes of 1986 and the "Crutches" group of 1987 their growing sovereignty and connect them, in spite of all their other differences, with the performances of 1977 to 1980.
The Lourdes installation, shown at the London Regional Art Gallery, Canada (1986-87), bore the title: Hinc illae lacrimae (Lourdes — hommage for Joseph Beuys). It contained a whole complex of more or less distinct allusions. This begins with the Latin word "hinc", which Pas translated as "hence" (in German, "von hier aus") — which was the title of an exhibition organized in 1984 in Dusseldorf by Kaspar Konig. Joseph Beuys contributed this phrase ("von hier aus") In his own handwriting and as such it became the trademark of the entire exhibition.
fig. 9 - (detail) Hinc Illae Lacrimae installation - Homage to Joseph Beuys 1986The popular parochial Catholicism of Beuys' homeland, becoming evident in his work, is sufficiently well-known to justify the association with Lourdes, the place of pilgrimage. The evocation of "Lourdes" was created by means of a large photograph showing the benches for the faithful and tourists (fig. 9), along with a tawdry plaster or marble figurine of the Mother of God. This image of Mary is repeated in a smaller plastic version resting in a box lined with blue satin beside a similar box containing an alienated crutch. This provided an atmosphere (accentuated by subdued lighting) of a partially contrasting correspondence with the other components of the installation. On the one hand, the material out of which the accompanying sculptures were made is a large number of wooden crutches — fitting with the associations evoked by Lourdes. On the other hand, these crutches are assembled In a constructive, rational-looking manner — and rationality has little to do with a place like Lourdes. This contrast is even continued within the inner structure of the sculptures themselves: the constructive result was achieved by a preceding act of destruction, for the crutches were first sawn or taken apart, to be reassembled differently.
fig. 10 - Broadway-Boogie-Wogie 1986 from Hinc Illae Lacrimae installation One of these sculptures especially, in homage to Mondriaan's Broadway Boogie-Woogie of 1942-43 (fig. 10), confronts the onlooker with various interesting questions, not all of which are concerned with art. For example: if one takes the concept of "Neo-Plasticism" seriously — apart from Mondriaan's own reflections on the subject — the question of the relationship of two-dimensionality and three-dimensionality presents itself. There is widespread agreement that one can — in the mathematical sense — categorize geometric bodies as three-dimensional (albeit with doubtful justification), but not the so-called (physical) "space" — like a landscape, for example.
In particular, Mondriaan's later paintings symbolize this problem in an inescapably artistic, and therefore not least metaphysical way in that the web of crossing lines or the suggestion of varying heights and depths created by different colour-segments breaks out of the bonds of both the simple concept of two-dimensionality and that of three-dimensionality. Harry Holtzmann, Burgoyne Diller, Otto Freundlich, Otto Coenen and, in the last decade, Martha Laugs as well as some specialists in the use of holographic techniques have pursued this problem in their artistic work. 5
Thus, it is anything but capriciousness on Pas' part when he alludes to such problems, specifically in his quotation of Mondriaan, and generally in his recent paintings and installation. His doing so in this latter case with crutches as his material, makes the homage to Joseph Beuys obvious, but the homage to Piet Mondriaan presented at the same time provokes a fundamental artistic and finally ideological confrontation, although both Mondriaan and Beuys took a metaphysical position as their point of departure.
One is reminded of the legendary meeting between Mondriaan and Kandinsky, where neither one had anything to say to the other, as they consumed their breakfast in icy silence: in this encounter between Mondriaan and Beuys brought about by Pas, the situation is similar, with the added ironical effect that, to a certain audience, this meeting could prove highly eloquent.
In his reflections on his work of 1986-87, Pas himself points out that. since the use of constructivistic principles has led to certain misdevelopments in many areas of the applied arts (i.e. architecture, urban construction, design and the like), he has tried to reduce the functional to pure form in a single antithetical step. 6 And, truly, this need not be regression, for the potential of Modernism is not denied, but revealed (fig. 11, 12).
fig. 11 - (detail from tryptich) Ontology of Red Blue Crutchfig. 12 - (detail from tryptich) Red Blue Monument to the Third International 1988 The fact that this revelation is achieved by the collision of Modernism with post-modern impulses has already been illustrated in the example of Mondriaan and Beuys. While constantly using the crutches theme, Pas provoked similar collisions with the works of Rietveld, Malevich, Kudriashev, Freundlich/Coenen and many other artists of the early decades of the present century. With increasing clarity, the results suggest an exit from the fruitless "to and fro" between these irreconcilable, contradictory elements.fig. 13 - triptych: Nach, Nach, Nach 1987

It is of direct symbolic significance to this process that Pas first let the concept of synthesis appear in a triptych based on a painting by Otto Coenen of 1969 which was itself a homage to Otto Freundlich's linocut Theses — Antitheses — Synthese of 1937. The title of Pas' work Is: a) Nach, Nach, Nach These b) Nach, Nach, Nach Antithese c) Nach, Nach, Nach Synthese (fig. 13).
This process receives additional strength, going far beyond the biographical, by the trick which enables Pas to pull off credibly an "homage to the second power", so to speak, and thereby mark a conceptional end-point to a favourite postmodern practice 7 — a conclusion which contains a new beginning in the concept of synthesis, if this is interpreted in the Hegelian sense, and thus permits no return. Nor is a return necessary, for history is implied just as much in a dialectical conception of the present as it is in the future. The new works of Gerard P. Pas prove that this holds just as true for art.

Uli Bohnen  — Aachen, Germany. 1987

Translated from the German by Helga Ruppe and Gerard Pas with the assistance of the author.

* note: please click on the footnote to return to where you were in the document

1. Imagine Joseph Beuys calling his Documenta 7 Installation "ARTIficial Honey Pump".

2. Performance Un Autre Faux Pas (1978), Kingston, Canada. I remember an incident in Aachen, W. Germany when Pas, wearing dark glasses and groping with a cane like a blind man, stopped the traffic in order to cross the street with some friends.

3. Cf. Walter Benjamin, Versuche uber Brecht, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1967.

4. The counterpart, if we go by Pas' landscapes (e.g. Fork of the Thames 1982) (fig. 6)  is not so much Duchamp's correction of the Mona Lisa as his Pharmacie of 1914, a partially recoloured advertisement showing the reproduction of a landscape.

5. Cf. Robert L. Herbert/Eleanor S. Apter/ Elise K. Kenney, The Societe Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University — A Catalogue Fiaisonne, New Haven/London, Yale University Press, 1984; Otto Freundlich-Schriften, Cologne, DuMont Verlag, 1982; Otto Coenen—Leben und Werk. Cologne, Wienand Verlag, 1983.

6. This Is ironically exemplified by Rietveld's famous but uncomfortable chair, which Pas logically transformed into a wheelchair (fig.11)

7. Elaine Sturtevant, Mike Bidlo and Sherrie Levine have found their way to a similarly radical formulation of the quotation by the alternative technique of intentional exact duplication or at least by producing quotations which could be confused with works of the artists being quoted.

fig. 14 - Portrait of Gerard Pas by William KurylukThe Artists comments

PäS Plus — PäS Moins
(no more - no less)
by Gerard PaS


"The more man ripens, the more he will become a (creator) and the more he will oppose natural matter and those, who are still dominated by it. He will select his own surroundings and create them. He will therefore not regret the lack of nature, as the masses do, who have been forced in spite of themselves to leave it (......). He will build cities, hygienic and beautiful by a balanced contrast of buildings, constructions and empty space. Then he will be quite as happy indoors as outdoors."
(Piet Mondriaan)
H.L.C. Jaffe, De Stijl, 1917-1931: The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art (Cambridge, U.S.A. & London, U.K.: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1986), pp.156, 157.

"Disequilibrium means conflict, disorder. Conflict is also, part of life and of art, but it is not the whole of life or universal beauty. Real life is the mutual interaction of two oppositions of the same value, but different aspect and nature. Its plastic expression is universal beauty".
(Piet Mondriaan)
H.L.C. Jaffe, De Stijl, 1917-1931: The Dutch Contribution to Modern Art (Cambridge, U.S.A. & London, U.K.: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1986), p.127

The principle motivation behind this body of work is to present a problematical situation corresponding directly to one's cognition of reality, and reality's often relative perception.
More concretely, the ontological basis of these works Is one which is largely inspired by the aesthetics and works of the Supremacists, the Constructivists, the De StijI and the Neo-Plasticist movements in art.
By taking the above aesthetics, as well as my own existential experiences and then by re-assembling them through a process of fragmentation, a new personal aesthetic vocabulary is created. This new language serves not only as a reflection of my own experiences with being handicapped, but also as a polemic to the aforementioned movements in art. Let me explain: it is my opinion that the previously stated art movements, in their development of the 'pure form' attempted to take these 'pure forms' and 'apply' them to general design and architecture resulting in some rather peculiar outcomes. For example, if you have ever sat in Rietveld's Red-Blue Chair, you would know that it can be very awkward and uncomfortable to sit in for long durations. Consider the results of some Constructivist's architecture which has led to the current formation of prefabricated steel buildings, which dot the industrial parks of most cities. These buildings, which can be ordered in any colour or size from a catalogue, have neglected to consider the beings who inhabit them, making them somewhat uninhabitable in their consideration of 'pure form'. What started out as 'beauty' has turned to the 'beastly' techno-slums of our current age.
fig. 15 - Red Blue Wheelchair 1987I would like to emphasize that the above applications do not necessarily disturb or anger me! Rather, I have come to see them in the context of 'pure forms'. The Red-Blue Chair (fig. 15) is not really for sitting 'in': it is for seeing, filling negative space like sculpture, photographing, etc.; and likewise the Constructivist buildings are mammoth sculptures. I therefore conclude that these movements "sometimes" (not always) took 'pure forms' and disguised them as 'applied forms'. In other words: they took art and introduced it as practical design even though it was still art. You could then go forward and ask yourself, as the Dadaists did, "At what point does any common object become Art?" 
The root of my new work is based on this above conclusion. What I have done in my work is simply reversed the above process by taking 'applied forms' and, through a complex method of fragmentation and assimilation, created 'pure plastic forms'. For example, I have taken the practical (applied) form of a crutch and, re-assembling its shape, changed it into the 'pure form' of a "plastic objet d'art" (figs. 10, 12, 13). This process is then further applied as an assessment on the effects of the aforementioned aesthetical movements and influences, through art, into virtually all forms of contemporary design and architecture.
The work acts as both a vehicle to relate my personal artistic vocabulary (In dealing with my handicap) but also as a commentary on the effects of these already established influences on today's applied arts.

Gerard Pas  — London, Canada. 1987

fig. 16 - Dr. Uli Bohnen and Gerard Pas, Aachen, Germany 1979About the Author — Uli Bohnen (1987)

Uli Bohnen was born in Monchengladbach, West Germany in 1948. He studied the History of Art, Philosophy and General Rhetoric at The University of Tubingen, The Technical University of Berlin and the Otto Suhr-lnstitute, Berlin. He earned his doctorate from The University of Tubingen in 1976, with a dissertation on "The Group of Progressive Artists" of the Rhineland. (Das Gesefz der Welt ist die Anderung der Welt • Die rheinische Gruppe Progressiver Kunstler 1918-1933, Berlin, Karin Kramer Verlag, 1975). Dr. Bohnen has authored and co-authored numerous books and catalogues, as well as curating and collaborating on exhibitions on Gerd Arntz, Franz W. Seiwert, Max Ernst, Hans Schmitz, Otto Freundlich and Otto Coenen, among others. During 1979/1980, he taught at The Ruhr University, Bochum. Uli Bohnen is currently working, in Germany and abroad, as an independent curator and author on modern and contemporary art of this century He lives in Aachen, Germany and Raeren, Belgium.

read more works by Dr. Bohnen (at search - just click here)


Dream Memory of the Brace (#10 of the series) (1977)
black and photo from instant Polaroid neagtive
31 x 23 cm.
Collection of the London Regional Art and Historical Museum, London, Canada.

Saturn, ruler of the boundaries of the planetary circle, is the god of the melancholy, the sick, the crippled and the creative.
Sebastian Münster, Organa Planetarium, Heidelberg, (1522)
Courtesy of La Biblioteca Apostica Vaticana, Rome, MS. Pal. lat. 1368. fol. 1v.

fig. 3 & 4
Kunstledematen (1979)
performance: De Appel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (recorded on video)

fig. 5
Un Autre Faux Pas (1978) performance: Kingston Penitentiary, Canada
Collection of the artist.

fig. 6
Fork of the Thames (1983)
watercolour on paper
25 x 29 cm.
Collection of Ivest Corporation, Canada.

fig. 7
Venus Versus Venus Vulgaris (detail) (1984)
watercolour on paper and colour photographs
panel: 64.1 x 223.5 cm.;  paintings: 50.8 x 45.8 cm.
Collection of Mr & Mrs. P. Riesling, Mass., U.S.A.

fig. 8
The Cain in Abel - The Abel in Cain (1984-1985) (detail)
watercolour on paper and colour photographs
panel: 64.1 x 223.5 cm.; paintings: 50.8 x 45.8 cm.
Collection of the artist.

fig. 9
Hinc Illae Lacrimae - Hommage for Joseph Beuys (1986) (detail)
wood, metal and rubber construction
85 x 58 x 40 cm.
Collection of the artist

fig. 10
Broadway-Boogie-Woogie (from Hinc Illae Lacrimae installation) (1986)
wood, metal and rubber construction
85 x 58 x 40 cm.
Collection of the artist

(triptych detail - panel 1 of  3)
Ontology of Red-Blue Crutch (1988)
watercolour on paper
66 x 200 cm entire tryptich, painting measure 40 x 30 unframed
Collection of Dan, Mark and Paul Riesling, U.S.A.

(triptych detail - panel 3 of  3)
Red-Blue Monument to the Third International (1988)
watercolour on paper
66 x 200 cm entire tryptich, painting measure 40 x 30 unframed
Collection of Dan, Mark and Paul Riesling, U.S.A.

fig. 13
Nach, Nach, Nach (1987) triptych
subtitle: Rot-Blau Krucke nach Otto Coenen ‘Kopf'
nach Otto Fruendlich ‘These - Antithese - Synthese'
watercolour on paper
66 X 200 cm.

fig. 14
Portrait of the artist Gerard Pas by William Kuryluk (circa 1989)

fig. 15
Red-Blue Wheelchair (1987)
lacquer painted wood
100 x 80 x 90 cm.
Collection of the London Regional Art and Historical Museum, London, Canada.

fig. 16
Dr. Uli Bohnen and Gerard Pas with Angel
Aachen, Germany 1979.

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