May 4 – 11, 2019

The media theorist Marshall Mcluhan observed non-visual awareness when people interact with inanimate objects. When driving, for example, we experience much more than our five senses report. The whole car – not just the parts we can see, feel and hear – is very much on our minds at all times. The vehicle becomes an extension of our body. It absorbs our sense of identity. We become the car. If one car hits another, the driver of the vehicle being struck is much more likely to say: “Hey! He hit ME!” than “He hit my CAR!” Our identities and awareness are invested in many inanimate objects every day.

In any case, our constant awareness of self flows outward to include the object of our extended identity. For Bischoff an extension of his neighbours’ identity seems to be their cars. Bischoff de-emphasises the appearance of the physical world by use of abstraction and by placing a white border around the entire picture. He is showing us that these paintings are a conceptualised image of said awareness of our biological extensions. They run up and down the scale of “realism” and “abstraction”. Through traditional realism, painters can portray the world without and through abstraction, the world within. One set of lines to see. Another set of lines to be.

We see the plants, for instance. The plants, being painted more realistically, become more objectified. Bischoff emphasises their “otherness” from the viewer. They have weight, texture and physical complexity. The cars on the other hand operate on the level of being, by heavy use of abstraction. It is for this reason that we identify more with the cars than the plants.

But in the wake of this iconic reduction between realism and abstraction that Bischoff is working with I ask myself: Can you go even further down the scale and retain this idea of an extended identity as McLuhan would call it? I would argue that there is. The personification of the “neighbour” is embodied in the stylized licence plates: Meaning retained. Resemblance completely gone. Words – or to be more exact – letters and numbers are the ultimate abstraction in these paintings. Much like actual neighbours the letters of the licence plate and the realistic rendering of the plants are living on the opposite end of the same street.

These paintings send us towards the center where letters and pictures are like two sides of one coin. Bischoff seems to lay open his struggle for sophistication in pure painting, where words and pictures are most separate, while wanting to access identity through letters as well. Both stem from a love of painting and a devotion to its future. I would argue that this interrogation can be applied to Bischoffs personal interaction with neighbours and the interaction of realism and abstraction as neighbours within his paintings. The question – as always between neighbours – is: Can they be reconciled?

Kenneth Bergfeld