Nic Hess (*1968 in Zurich, where he also lives and works) studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and at the University of the Arts, Berlin.
He got mainly known for his expansive installations and wall collages made of tapes and foils. With these, he deconstructed signs (logos) and symbols from the worlds of business and art history.
“Alfa Romeo and Juventus” is a work for which he transferred his earlier ideas of playing with and deconstructing logos and symbols to a light box. We see and recognize several elements, depending on our knowledge of the world of the economic brands as well as of other fields. For instance, the panther to the left side of the piece is probably rather a fantasy figure and does not represent anything but itself (and power and possible violence). Just to the right of this panther we see an image of the famous Swiss mountain Matterhorn. However, since it has been turned 90° to the left, it forms a diamond together with the partly shown “car freshner tree”. Again, a little bit to the right we see a cowboy boot, that can be considered a symbol for the tough wild West in the US. This boot is connected with what seems to be an image of the Chrysler Building’s top, turned 90° to the right. However, if we look closer, we recognize that Hess was tricking us: what seems to be the Chrysler Building in fact is a repetitive image of an airplane cockpit, seen from above. While the nose of the smallest airplane is touching the tip of the pennant of the Italian soccer team Juventus Torino (also, the pennant is not hanging down, but turned 90° to the right), the shortest side of the pennant is prolonged by the triangular form of the coat of arms of the Torino car company Alfa Romeo. In this very special coat of arms a snake eats (or spits out) a human being. Again, further to the right we see a painter (in fact: this figure is doubled) who seems to finish a curvy broad field (the Nike-swoosh). Below the swoosh Hess placed the Panda-bear-logo of the WWF-foundation.
As has become clear, we recognize a lot of different elements. However, it is not Nic Hess’ intention to animate us to an interpretation of an allegedly readable narration. On the contrary: he is deconstructing the idea of such a total understanding. And the symbols and signs, logos, and images, that we do or do not recognize, are rather reduced to their esthetic value as elements of a composition as a whole.
We can either just enjoy the fun of deciphering (and not understanding) such a composition. We can also – on the other side – understand this playing around with signs and symbols as a criticism of the inundation with signs that we are experiencing in our everyday life.
Technically, Hess has executed this work with overhead transparencies and adhesive foils. These are directly collaged on the semi-transparent white surface within the light box. Hess is used to these materials, because he is employing them in his large-scale installations.
Hess looks back to a long career and to a very large number of institutional solo-shows of which here just a few are mentioned: Zulieferer unter Druck, Städtische Galerie, Wolfsburg (2016); Der Stoff aus dem die Träume waren, Kunsthalle Münster, Münster (2015); Ein Titel muss her!, Kunststation Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg (2013); The Birds (for Lilou), Swiss Institute, New York (2012); Silberpfeil, Mercedes Benz Museum, Stuttgart (2011); Automatic Crash Response, Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2009); Escape, Schloß Ringenberg, Hamminkeln (2009); Sculptures, The Project, New York (2008); Food4Less, Museo de Zapopan, Zapopan (2007); Walls/Muri (with Federico Herrero), Fondazione Bevilacqua, Venice (2006); Rice-Fields and Bushes, Casa del Lago, Mexico City (2006); Icons will survive / Wände haben Ohren, Media Center of the Swiss Government, Bern (2006); Guten Morgen Deutschland, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2004); Logo (with Francis Baudevin and Mathieu Mercier), Swiss Institute, New York (2004); Berlin – New York (with Emmanuelle Antille), Kunsthaus Baselland, Muttenz (2003); To the MANOR born, Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Winterthur (2002); Ola de Cola, OPA (Officina de Proyectos de Arte), Guadelajara (2002); Dolly II, Kunstwerke, Berlin (2000); Swinging Swindle, Queens Museum of Art, New York (2000); Together Now, The Drawing Center, New York (2000); Transit 21 – Projekt Durchbruch (Kompromiss nach Eiland) (with Kerim Seiler), Kunsthalle St. Gallen, St. Gallen (1999).
His works (and installations) have been acquired by numerous institutional and important private collections: Amt für Arbeit und Wirtschaft des Kantons Zürich, Zurich; Bank Julius Bär Collection, Zurich; Bundeskunstsammlung der schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, Bern; Bundesmedienhaus, Bern; Collection Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt; Credit Suisse Collection; Daimler Art Collection, Berlin / Stuttgart; Dow Chemical, Zurich; Ernst & Young, Zurich; Fundación Colección JUMEX, Mexico City; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Kantonalbank Zürich, Zurich; Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich; Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, St. Gallen; Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Stuttgart; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Montblanc Kulturstiftung, Hamburg; Museo de Zapopan, Guadalajara; Swiss National Bank Art Collection, Zurich; Swiss RE, Zurich; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.