Born on October 16, 1950 as Harald Friedrich Bender in the city of Bruchsal (Baden-Württemberg), Adelhyd van Bender leaves his parental home at age 15 after his parents’ break-up and moves to Ludwigshafen where he lives in a juvenile home and completes an apprenticeship as an electrician. In 1968, Bender moves to Berlin working as an electrician for two years, later becoming unemployed. In 1974, he completes his General Certificate of Secondary Education in evening courses. In October of the same year, he is admitted to the HdK Berlin (Berlin Arts Academy) where he studies for two years, until he is forced to exmatriculate in 1976.
After the lease to his apartment has been terminated, he travels to England convinced that he will be able to trace his aristocratic roots. Since that time, he calls himself Adelhyd van Bender. In 1977, he returns to Berlin and intensifies his artistic activity: 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 materials and part of his work. In 1999, when the artist’s apartment threatens to collapse under the weight of his work, he leaves a large part of his oeuvre to the Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg. After this incident, Adelhyd van Bender dedicates himself completely to drawing, re-working, and photocopying. His work resembles scientific research and he pursues it obsessively day by day from morning to night, executing his scientific approach with artistic means: he draws, writes, photocopies, retouches obsessively, filling thousands and thousands sheets of paper with geometric forms and color fields, also resorting to mathematical and chemical graphisms and formula.
Van Bender’s work is characterized by the idea that he carries a female uterus that contains an “atomic secret” inside. Another pivotal theme is the shape of the cube, associated to the symbol of the Ka’aba, the black cube of Mecca. But also planetary constellations and rockets to the stars. The idea that there are trials and tests that must be taken in order to ascend to heaven are also key concepts in Bender’s universe. With infinite chains of variations and abstraction he transforms both technical, religious, and scientific symbols as well as symbols borrowed from everyday reality. Resulting is a fascinating oeuvre: unpredictable, associative and highly esthetic and conceptual stringency.
Bender died in Berlin on April 2, 2014.
Van Bender’s entire artistic estate is in the possession of Delmes & Zander. This February first works by Adelhyd van Benders were presented in New York at the INDEPENDENT as well as in the exhibition “System & Vision” at David Zwirner and can be seen until April 18.