Adelhyd van Bender

1950 - 2014

  • Folder #1, 1999 – 2014, including approx. 200 drawings, mixed media on paper in plastic folders, each 30 x 21 cm or 42 x 30 cm (folded in half), 32 x 29 x 8 cm
  • Folder #4, 1999 – 2014, including approx. 200 drawings, mixed media on paper in plastic folders, each 30 x 21 cm or 42 x 30 cm (folded in half), 32 x 29 x 8 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #1, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #1, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #1, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #1, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #2, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #7, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #7, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • Drawing from Folder #7, 1999 – 2014, mixed media on paper 30 x 21 cm
  • untitled, 1999-2014, mixed media on paper, 42 x 30 cm
  • untitled, 1999-2014, mixed media on paper, 42 x 30 cm
  • untitled, 1999-2014, mixed media on paper, 42 x 30 cm
  • Documentary image from the Adelhyd van Bender archive, Berlin 2014. Photo: Joshua Hofmann.

Adelhyd van Bender was born on October 16, 1950 in the city of Bruchsal (Baden-Württemberg), Germany. At age 15, and after the break-up of his parents, he runs away from home to Ludwigshafen, where he lives in a juvenile home and completes a three-year apprenticeship as an electrician. In 1968 he moves to Berlin, where he works for two years as an electrician, later becoming unemployed. In 1974 he enrols in night school where he completes his General Certificate of Secondary Education. In October of the same year he is admitted to the HdK Berlin (Berlin University of Arts), where he studies for two years. In 1976 he is de-registered after a longstanding battle.
After being thrown out of his flat, he travels to England convinced by the idea that he will be able to trace back his aristocratic roots. From now on he calls himself Adelhyd van Bender. In 1977 he returns to Berlin and intensifies his artistic activity, which includes drawings, in addition to the creation of bomb-like objects. He paints with tars, oil paints, various chemicals and solvents on wood and cardboard. In 1987, a fire in his apartment destroys all highly combustible material and part of his work. In 1999, the Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg acquires a large part of his oeuvre after his apartment threatens to collapse under the weight of his work. After this period, Adelhyd van Bender turns radically to a technique of drawing, reworking and photocopying. He sees his artistic activity as a drudgery forced upon him by a higher authority, an ongoing chore to be completed from morning to night, day in day out. Adelhyd van Bender dies on April 2, 2014 in Berlin.

In his obsessive accumulation Adelhyd van Bender drew, wrote, photocopied, retouched, thousands and thousands of sheets of paper with geometrical shapes and colour fields, resorting to scientific, mathematical and physical graphisms and formula, covering sheet upon sheet. Central to his work is the idea that he carried a female uterus inside of him, in which he kept an "atomic secret." Another pivotal theme is the shape of the cube, associated to the symbol to the Ka'aba, the black cube of Mecca. But also planetary constellations, rockets and torpedoes to the stars and the idea, that there are trials and test that must be taken to ascend to heaven are key concepts in the Bender universe. His technical and scientific symbols are inscrutable, mesmerizing, as ludicrous and frantic as technological progress itself. Bender's work embodies this with diligence, the pseudo-systematics and the sacrosanct excessiveness of the scientific community. In his serial archive he is able to hold the all-empowering universe enclosed in folders and keep the chaos at bay.