The erotic space liberated by the sexual revolution of the 1970s, historically driven by political radicalism and anti-establishment uproar, has been hijacked by capitalist machinery. Free love has mutated into sexual performance with a price tag. The idealists of yesteryear matured into self-satisfied capitalists lounging comfortably in the flaming status-quo. Such mature couple can be seen in Sierre dans la main, where the two are surrounded by markers of wealth, performing youth via consumption, unconcerned about the masses below them. The stylized consumption climaxes in the bedroom, where props and ideology amount to a performance of sexual desirability. Julius Hofmann caricatures this invasion of economic machinery and digital media into the sense of self through optimization of sex life and the strive for sexiness.
Under the imperative of self-commodification, the Western subject of late capitalism, grapples to find their identity and place within the sexual market while being bombarded by commercial dating portals, hook-up apps, self-help blogs, therapy trends and coaching offers. The permeating ethos is that of a need for control driven by a yearning for connection, yet cultivating systemic alienation. At the same time, the frantic struggle to perform well entails a hearty portion of absurdism. Like the porn actors in Set 2: Synopsis, hectically grasping at high-tech gadgets to curate the most arousing imagery that would satisfy the over-stimulated consumer, the individual stage-manages their sex in order to attain a good review of their performance. Thus, the rotten core of capitalist ideology squanders joyous eroticism denying the embodied subjectivity a core part of the human experience.
Hofmann infuses painting with the reduced, yet punchy aesthetics of early CGI attesting to the adaptability of the medium and its potency to transmit critical commentary. His Grosze Walderdbeere, for example, is an homage to George Grosz’s Erotic Scene 2. Their conversation is an invitation to examine the lingering themes of sexuality and taboo within the artistic discourse while marveling on different faces of mastery. Hofmann’s painterly textures and surfaces are symbiotically rough and refined. His figures, contorted in disorientation, shame and loneliness, inhabit clashing environments ranging from luxury lofts, to barren landscapes to dystopian war zones. This whiplash of contrasts reveals necessary decontamination of love and eroticism exemplified in Himars where two soldiers with erect phalli embody the toxically masculine conflation of sex, violence and exploitation displacing potential homosexual affection. The abstracted bodies, diverse and desiring, are found surrendering to genuine impulses that are negotiated with prescriptive forms of expression. Hofmann’s post-apocalyptic landscape crystalizes the marvelous resilience of the organic self that demands to see and be seen, to touch and be touched for their own survival. In a painting titled DVKE, for instance, two young lovers are intertwined in an embrace, their gaze buried in their respective smartphones while Titanic sinks in the background. Despite being surrounded by a world coming to an end and a technological landscape engineered to keep them isolated, the drive for connection perseveres.