Visiting the GalerieHebecker for its dual exhibit (Schillerstrasse 18, until 2/15/14) reminded me of my first art assignment in 1948 at my hometown Jesuit University of Detroit. The priest teaching the course gave us our first assignment: go downtown to the new Detroit Institute of Arts and find a work you really like and explain why it appeals to you. My choice was “The Liberated Slave”, reminding me powerfully of the not yet released Detroit Negroes.
I get the same sense of challenge from Hebecker in the four to six shows they present each year. Michael Hebecker founded the gallery in 2002, but his daughter Susanne took over when he died in 2008. (Her brother runs another family gallery on the Kramerbrücke in nearby Erfurt).
The current show, dubbed “Red and Black”, contrasts the black and white style of Karl Ortelt (1907-1972) with the richly colored style of Fritz Keller (1915-1994). Both served in the German Army during the First World War, and both were jailed in Great Britain for several years after the war in the ‘40s. But the similarities end there.
Ortelt’s portraits were frontal views of ordinary people, a man and a child, a married couple, and a couple with a small child, celebrating. Keller’s rich colors teem with energy, the realities in the frames being often obscure but nonetheless eloquent. I’ve been since then to all the greet museums of the world, the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the many Smithsonians in Washington., the Kyoto in Japan. Even the brilliantly retrieved Gotha Museum nearby.
Part of the Hebecker’s power lies in their brilliantly edited brochures. And catalogs. And the friendly presence of their staff. Like that Jebbie priest in Detroit 66 years ago who made an esthetic fanatic of me with his “simple” assignment, Ms. Hebecker and her Hungarian mother are the sweetest guides I’ve encountered in my 87 years. Bless them and their open-minded, second floor display area.