Critics’ Picks

Valentin Ruhry, Falsche Universalismen (False Universalisms), 2012, cardboard, gypsum, plastic, 35 1/2 x 47 1/4 x 10".


Valentin Ruhry

Christine König Galerie
Schleifmühlgasse 1A
June 29–September 14

Freud’s notion of the uncanny is not necessarily something one would associate with Minimalist sculpture. But Valentin Ruhry’s current exhibition, “Falsche Universalismen” (False Universalisms), delivers just such a feeling of the alienated familiar. In his video Working the City, 2007–12, Ruhry wheelbarrows piled-up pieces of plaster fallen from the opera house in Skopje, Macedonia, to a gallery space, where he forms a pile of his own and leans the wheelbarrow on it. Such odd positioning of familiar materials creates an intimate atmosphere where we are unlikely to recognize just how accustomed we are to such objects. Elsewhere, Ruhry uses similarly common building hardware, like wire, window blinds, and gypsum, to comparable effect. Entwurf für eine Malerei II (Proposal for a Painting II), 2012, is a thirty-five-by-fifty-one-inch piece of gypsum that has been placed on a metal shelf at eye level, almost as if a painting, and while this subtle rejection of medium-specificity is provoking, it is the odd juxtaposition of ordinary materials with their location on the wall that triggers the feeling of weirdness. The scale and position of Ruhry’s work produces a sense of peculiar recognizability; we see objects we know, but we are unable to pinpoint just how we know them.

Ruhry’s work subtly highlights objects' provenances, and while his pieces draw on a Minimalist approach to sculpture and space, they are freed from any austerity in this reassuringly familiar setting, as are two drawings and a sculpture on view by the American Bill Bollinger, in whom Ruhry finds a related artistic approach. By embracing materials and inserting them into well-known contexts, Ruhry turns unfamiliar combinations of everyday objects into uncanny works of art.