Blum & Poe is pleased to present I Went to See Myself but I Saw You, Los Angeles-based artist Julian Hoeber’s eighth solo exhibition with the gallery.
Many of the works presented in I Went to See Myself but I Saw You deploy geometric motifs, a device that Hoeber has used throughout his career, as part of a new series structured around the concept of stereoscopic vision—the process of seeing three-dimensionality derived from two eyes operating independently of one another. The paintings and sculptures presented here emulate this phenomenon, creating image pairs that are both unexpected and nuanced. These image pairs, placed side-by-side on a single panel or sculpture, expose the visual gymnastics required to see with two inputs: an experience that is both functional and imperfect. By hyper-focusing on and reframing the act of seeing, one begins to understand their perception of the world as fallible and constructed.
Hoeber has a long-demonstrated interest in giving physical form to cerebral or internal experiences. Since the artist’s first exhibition with Blum & Poe in 2002, Killing Friends, he has investigated the breakdown of inner versus outer and persistently exposed the faulty nature of popular cultural dichotomies. Beginning in 2020, Hoeber began researching and making paintings inspired by the work of Sir Charles Wheatstone. In 1838, Wheatstone invented the Wheatstone stereoscope, a device allowing independent right-eye and left-eye views at the same time. With this viewer, one could create the conditions for binocular rivalry: wherein the mind will try, often with great difficulty, to reconcile the two different images that it is seeing. Under these circumstances, human cognition triggers a contingent and shifting pattern of overlay between the two vignettes. Hoeber recreates this experience in the wall-mounted sculptures presented here, such as in What Two Animals Are Most Alike? (2023), which depicts both a rabbit and a duck. Depending on the viewer’s position, What Two Animals Are Most Alike? transforms—becoming part-rabbit and part-duck as the mind struggles to meld the input that it is receiving from each eye.
Both the Wheatstone stereoscope and Hoeber’s investigations manipulate the act of looking to bring the viewer closer to understanding how the outside world is internally processed. Robert Smithson also cited Wheatstone’s stereoscope as a major influence on his two-part sculptural work Enantiomorphic Chambers (1965)—the studies for which are in the collection at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Of this sculpture, Smithson said, “To see one’s own sight means visible blindness.” In response to this statement, and to the work presented in I Went to See Myself but I Saw You, Hoeber states, “I’d say that seeing one’s sight (something I agree is at the center of experiencing the Wheatstone viewer) is not so much visible blindness as necessitating a revision of regular sight as less trustworthy. I’m trying to get people right up to the surface of the contingency of their own vision.”
In these works, Hoeber looks back at the history of painting, realizing that the single-point perspective used in the Renaissance period was meant to create a seamless and cohesive space by leaving out the complexities of what it is to truly see through two eyes. Binocular vision has two vanishing points that are made obvious when bifurcated by a device such as the Wheatstone viewer. The paintings that Hoeber presents in this exhibition each have two vanishing points, forcing onlookers to encounter them in steps—first one side, then the other. When interfacing with the geometric forms and small orbiting moon of 28 Days or 17 Miles (2022), the eye is drawn to each side of the composition. This is the case with all of the paintings presented here, due to the artist’s recurrent use of multiple vanishing points. When confronting these paintings up close, the spectator naturally gets pushed to either side of the work, depending on which portion they are looking at. Hoeber offers this experience to the viewer—intending each panel as a device to produce this kind of two-part looking.
I Went to See Myself but I Saw You resists Western picture making’s propensity for depicting a cohesive vision of the world. Hoeber acknowledges that these more traditional works leave out a great deal of complex information—for example, how the simple act of human sight actually goes through many steps in its journey from exterior to interior perception. In bifurcating the single vanishing point in his works through the logic of Wheatstone, stereoscopic vision, and binocular rivalry, Hoeber evokes an element of the sublime—an existential jolt that causes one to reconsider their own way of perceiving the world. As the artist puts it, “I’m interested in the idea that viewers and viewing are always slippery and a bit fractured.”
Julian Hoeber (b. 1974, Philadelphia, PA) holds a BA in Art History from Tufts University, Medford, MA, a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, and an MFA from the ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA. Hoeber’s work is featured in public and private collections internationally including Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens, Greece; de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA; Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, TX; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Rosenblum Collection, Paris, France; Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; and the Western Bridge Museum, Seattle, WA. Julian Hoeber lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.