Critics’ Picks

View of “The Last Fifty Years, 1968 / 2019,” 2019.

Madrid

Ulrich Rückriem

Galería Heinrich Ehrhardt
San Lorenzo, 11
May 23–July 27

With its eight sculptures and two series on paper, “The Last Fifty Years, 1968 / 2019” demonstrates the archetypes that have run through Ulrich Rückriem’s oeuvre with assured concision and a poise at once mysterious and upfront. The oldest of the pieces—all of which have been remade for the exhibition—is the iconic dolomite Column, 1968/2019, a rectangular prism sawed in half and then wedged together. This early work sprang from the artist’s experience as a quarrier for the reconstruction of the Cologne Cathedral. With its simple but resolute gesture, great concern for process, warm rather than intimidating monumentality, and vulnerable scale, the fragmented Column aptly summarizes Rückriem’s Minimalist ethic.

In retrospect, we’re able to see how these properties unfold in his later, often more playful production: four squares of reinforcement bars laid out at regular sequence; a striking two-tone dolomite slab; a found puzzle piece of rusted iron joined to another to form a quadrangle; another square, this time outlined by wooden beams; a cylindrical metal rod flattened in the middle; a horizontal relief of regular slate polygons; crossword-like grid drawings. Formalist interpretations of Rückriem’s art will always feel too meager. Only by seeing the works together in a megalith such as this can viewers relish the aesthetic power, the treatment of space and texture, and the austere elegance at stake in Rückriem’s project—in its making and remaking.