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herman de vries (1999)

(voyage)
in the earlier centuries, scientists and men of learning were dispatched or undertook an enlightened form of performance that we now call the voyage of discovery. in this drama, the new lands of the non-europeanized borders were made known, their fauna glimpsed and categorized, and their geographies mapped and seen. today's world is now so overly known that different works are needed, and different undertakings have to begin. in this regard, the lifework of artists such as herman de vries, begin a new chapter in the continuing diaogue between humans and their environment.

de vries began his own voyages in the 1950's, which can be seen as one of re-covery. the point of such a voyage, of it's searches and discoveries, was not to find the new and unknown, but to rediscover the known anew. de vries does not intend to add to the long lists, but to broaden and re-orient them.
when a work of hermans is first encountered, whether it is a small sheet of paper with collected plants attached, or a large floor installation of mounded materials, the work is readily apparent and available. we see the substance of the plant, the color of the soil, perhaps some notes as to its geographic origin. beyond that, there is no overlaid mystery, no artistic 'technique', no plot or narrative. to encounter the world through de vries's work requires an ascendance of the ontological method over the teleological. in his work, being comes before meaning and design.

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Ted Purves, herman de vries', in foldout for the exhibition 'works from there and here. herman de vries and chris drury' (Refusalon Gallery : San Francisco 1999).