ABOUT JOHN HUNDT'S COLLAGE WORK
Often using photographed or printed portraits as their base, John Hundt’s collages are distortions of figure that aim at absurdity and disparity. He calls one of his recurring formal strategies totems, a figure that is built up with a combination of human, machine, animal and object parts. At turns graceful, whimsical or strange, Hundt’s constructions always follow in the rich tradition of photomontage by placing heterogeneous visual materials in dialogue with one another. However, Hundt brings seamlessness to his work in such a way that no matter the absurdity of the combination, his constructions are completely believable in their respective contexts. This equally true of his collaged landscapes, in which a verisimilitude of perspective is maintained in spite of the impossibility of the situation pictured.
Another recurring motif with Hundt is the mocking of figures of high society sitting for formal portraits. He will take, for example, the classic image of a scholar in his study or a man with a lace ruff and obscure their dignified faces with interventions of animal or plant pieces, leaving only their fine clothing visible. Hundt also often uses female legs, in high heels and silk hosiery, to either support totems or balance precariously atop them. Again, only the iconic and fetishized clothing and body parts remain, possibly an implication for everything that women are asked to tolerate or stand for in our society.
Fragments from old medical texts and history paintings in Hundt’s work also gesture toward the disciplines of archeology and anthropology, allowing his own practice to echo these methods of understanding and recording human history. His abundant source material, gathered over years of visiting used bookstores and magazine shops, allows the viewer to access and contemplate decades of printed materials and ephemera through the filter of Hundt’s unique vision.
A theme that follows naturally from this printed history is that of religion. Bishops miters, crucifixes and devotional statues have played their role in a number of unexpected places throughout Hundt’s career, becoming infantilized, feminized or sexualized by their new counterparts within the Hundt iconography. As with his other references, these religious signifiers do not carry special weight in his compositions. Like all other symbols, they are in a state of flux. Hundt is always cannily creating a situation where relationships between concepts and people can be rearranged, reimagined and reevaluated.
- Deirdre Madeleine Smith