In Dubio Pro Reo (innocent until proven guilty) is a Latin legal phrase that commonly refers to the presumption of innocence in case of doubt in criminal justice. It is based on the legal interference that most people are not criminals, the burden of proof resting on who asserts, not on who denies. David Hominal is a Swiss artist who currently lives and works in Amsterdam (Rijksacademie 2009–2010).
In Dubio Pro Reo is David Hominal ‘s first solo exhibition at Office Baroque. Hominal’s painting, drawing, photography and sculpture recount autobiographical experiences often through paradoxical roads of abstraction, with frequent allusions to art historical genres. Aesthetically and poetically Hominal’s sculptural practice calls to mind the work of Marcel Broodthaers. The paintings realized for In Dubio Pro Reo lean closer to the work of Willem De Kooning and Jasper Johns. The intensity of the work, both visual and moral, is closer to the trajectory of American artist Banks Violette. Hominal doesn’t shy away from confrontation making bold visual and intellectual statements in transgressive installations. The exhibition In dubio pro reo fans out over three different rooms and in a paranoid way is mined with double meanings. It taps into justice, Christian eschatology, drugs and intoxication as metaphors for doubt, personal failure and cultural disbelief.
The central room of the gallery is dominated by Ice Collapse and Crack (2009) an enormous glacial landscape constructed with sheets of polystyrene, glass and white plaster. Its dramatic, vast whiteness echoes Das Eismeer a notorious painting by Caspar David Friedrich. Friedrich’s original painting depicts the shipwreck caught by the omnipotence of nature, during an arctic expedition of William Parry around 1819-1820. In Hominal’s Ice Collapse and Crack the ice and crack in the title also spell out the names of widely popular, but no less harmful psychostimulants. Hominal’s crystal landscape is a pile of crystal hard drugs, ice and crack, surrounded by burnt, scolded and warped wooden panels – the still smoking debris of intense drug (ab)use. With Ice Collapse and Crack Hominal seems to cast a space of moral doubt and fear. It features a variation on the theme of romantic landscape but forces new readings of the concept of “the wild life” and “authentic experience”.
As an ominous preface to Ice Collapse and Crack the image of Death Ship Of No Port (2009) takes up a 3 × 10 meter wall from floor to ceiling in the front space of the gallery. Death Ship Of No Port consists of two monumental black and white photos attached side by side. One picture shows the bow of a boat, the other shows part of the same boat but upside down as a hovering presence. It’s title points to the work of H.C. Westermann, who had a death driven fascination for boats stemming from the time he served in the marines in Worldwar II and in Korea. Hominal’s Death Ship Of No Port is based on a picture taken of a naval carrier in the port of Antwerp. The ship was carrying a load of toxic rice thrown ashore by the ship’s crew – literally throwing bags of a white poisonous substance off board.
In the back room of the gallery five monumental abstract paintings are engaged in a symbolic/ritual setup. They each bear an identical representation of a cross and a rectangle, a symbolic representation that both intensifies and annuls their representational power. They appear as targets open for mental projection. The paintings are rendered in quite cheerful pinks, yellows, purples and golds, a reduced drag make up palette promoting a fleshy theatricality that’s close to De Koonings’. The origin of the installation is quite formal as the paintings were initially copied from Spanish naval flags from the 16th century. With them Hominal is referring to the constitutional powers of legislation and judicial power. The different Spanish flags were seized from the Spanish fleet upon its defeat and suspended as war trophies in the parliament (Staten Generaal) in The Hague. The exhibition is not a demonstration of exhibits, it is a space of different intensities. Far more than a critique it is to be understood as a voyage into cultural idioms and a (re)negotiation of their foundations in the face of the events that dominate our times.