Many of his sculptures recall the readymades of Marcel Duchamp, often changing their scale. Drawings the artist made as a child of Santa Claus were transformed into a life-sized sculpture for his 2004 show at Matthew Marks (Catalogue Raisonné no. 43). Unlike most artists that invoke the readymade tradition, with the notable exception of Robert Gober, Honert actually fabricates all of his works from scratch by himself, which also accounts for the artist’s small output.
His early sculptures like Red Upholstered Chair and Table with Jell-O (both 1983) (Catalogue Raisonné nos. 4 & 5) are highly realistic handmade sculptures based on drawings Honert made of his time spent in boarding school in Westphalia. Both pieces appear as the ordinary objects their titles describe: a red upholstered chair and a table with a plate of real Jell-O resting on top of it. Yet, the artist also installed neon tube lights into the backrest and seat of the chair to make the upholstery glow, and a motor hidden in the table causes the Jell-O to tremble. Furthermore, “Table with Jell-O is the usual height of a table, but in its other dimensions it departs from the usual sizes, seeming too large for one person but too small for two or four.” The luminous chair and jiggling Jell-O introduce the element of memory into the works. We are not simply seeing objects in the present, instead the lighting of the chair, for example, locates the chair under specific lighting conditions, at a certain time. But when and where these particulars refer to remain unclear, calling into question where the truth in memory resides: is it in memory’s attachment to historical objects or lived experiences; or, is lodged in the process of remembering itself?
In recent years, Honert’s art has verged on installation. A Model Scenario of the Flying Classroom (Catalogue Raisonné no. 30) made for the German Pavilion at the 1995 Venice Biennale borrows its subject and title from a children’s book by Erich Kästner entitled The Flying Classroom. It telescopes the entire plot of one scene from the novel in which Kästner describes a rehearsal for a play that the characters put together. Despite the description’s length and detail, the reader learns little about the play’s content or actual performance. Honert’s art again finds itself trying to represent what is specific—the detailed description of the play’s rehearsal—but nonetheless vague—the little information gained about the play’s particulars.