Artists: Sophie Reinhold, Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt
Venue: Kunstverein Reutlingen
Exhibition Title: Kein Witz, No Joke
Date: September 15 – November 3, 2019
Full gallery of images, press release, and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of Kunstverein Reutlingen
This autumn started with a cross-generational exhibition in the Kunstverein Reutlingen. The exhibition”Kein Witz, No Joke” combines new paintings and objects by Sophie Reinhold (*1981) and the so-called Typewritings by Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt (*1932). The artists couldn’t be more different. But in their works they have many things in common: manic perseverance, precision and a subversive sense of humour.
In Sophie Reinhold’s paintings, colour and stone powder, applied with a spatula, overlap. Resulting are multiple layers. But the individual elements are sharply separated from each other. Thus, a unique relief-like structure is formed, which serves as a starting point for figurative formulations, but also for abstract colour surfaces. This creates gestural superimpositions that are divided into different colour spaces and seem to float. In the play of these elements to each other, precise compositions are created. They are formed by condensation and surface, which work in symphonic interplay. The surfaces of the paintings are usually polished to a mirror finish. In this way they create a fetish-like attraction. Reinhold’s furniture-like objects subtly refer to the domestic and connect the public with the private.
Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt created artistic architecture, waves and abstract compositions from the signs of her typewriter. She ceased her artistic practice with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but until then her Mail Art had circulated worldwide. The postal system enabled her to escape the restrictions within the GDR.
As soon as visitors enter the more than 700 square metre exhibition hall, Sophie Reinhold confronts them with an imperative. ” Gewöhne Dich nicht dran” (Don’t get used to it, 2019) is written, almost tone in tone, on the painting in large letters. On closer inspection, this turns out to be a relief. The letters are cut into the canvas by hand. The work “Untitled (POLI)” (2019) hangs within sight. This work is also made of marble powder, pigment and cut-outs. She immediately associates the executive branch of society with colour and writing. But POLI refers not only to “police”, but also to the ancient Greek “polis”. This means city, state or community. And this is precisely what we form. The series of public instances continues spatially through the exhibition: POLI is followed by a yellow-black, an orange-white-checked and a red-white-striped relief. Abstractedly, they each refer to the cityscape that characterizes the artist: Berlin’s public transportation system, Berlin’s city cleaning service, and general warning markings in public.
In addition to these direct references, Reinhold presents us with a series of allegories, fabulous scenes, and mystical landscapes. The four-part work “Die Allegorie der vier Jahreszeiten” (The Allegory of the Four Seasons, 2019) appears as a modern interpretation with a simultaneous loving reminiscence of a proletariat and plays with gender-specific clichés. “Return of the Fool” (2019) shows a wandering rat that finally reveals itself to be a fool. Even with one foot hovering over the abyss, the fall into the depths must actually take place in the next second. Just as the imperative directly challenges an interaction with the viewer, the depictions of animals function as mirror projections. Reinhold takes a social inventory in a humorous and subversive way. The objects “Zwanglos” (Casual, 1 and 2, 2019) are seating furniture cut from bathtubs. They seek interaction. The individual private and domestic find their way subtly into the exhibition space. Thus it complements the socio-political and the public.
Through Mail Art Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt created a worldwide network with other artists. Only the format specifications of the post office had to be observed. Mail Art was an opportunity to undermine the dictatorship of censorship and the market in hegemonic societies. Despite political restrictions, it offered visibility and participation in the international art scene. Wolf-Rehfeldt typed meticulously on various makes of typewriters. It followed a certain logic of signs and letters. On A4, A5 and as a postcard on A6, sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative compositions were created. Her works have titles like “In Vain” (1972) or “Try and Error” (1975). They therefore also provide an intimate insight into the life of the autodidact as artistic emancipation. The Association of Visual Artists of the GDR allowed its members to print only fifty signed copies of a graphic work at a time. But as an employed “typist” – a typical female profession in the GDR – she also used the typewriter in her private life. In addition to original prints, she made copies of her art using carbon copies. The work “Concrete Shoes” (1970s) shows a multitude of Cs, Os and Ns, which stylized and disciplined into a clunky ladies boot with medium heel. It can be read as a joking example of concrete poetry. Or as a metaphor for real movement restrictions and the artist’s desire to overcome them. Her works are not only artefacts of a German-German history. They are highly topical. This can also be seen, for example, in the postcard-sized work “Fragezeichen” (Question Mark, mid- 1970s). There it says: “Ob die Natur sich nicht übernahm, als sie sich den Menschen leistete” (Whether nature overreached itself when it took on mankind). Her works are studies of concrete poetry and linguistics, conceptual art, graphic design and architectural forms as innovative combinations of language, symbols and visual forms. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt discontinued her artistic production: Mail Art seemed obsolete to her when the world opened up.
In the exhibition “Kein Witz, No Joke” the works of Sophie Reinhold and Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt stand in peculiar relationship to each other. An aesthetic tension can be found in the combination. They comment on each other. In their entirety, they tell a ballad like poetic verses. The artists do not know each other personally. And yet they share stories about making art, about being an artist, about socialism and capitalism, about the individual and about society. Despite or precisely because of the difference in age, a very specific dynamic emerges from nostalgia and modernity that captures us in a humorous way.
The Kunstverein is supported by the City of Reutlingen, State of Baden-Württemberg, Ministry of Science, Research and Art, RWT, Kreissparkasse Reutlingen.