New York

Klaus Rinke

The Clocktower

Klaus Rinke is one of those artists whose use of systems often pushes his work toward the very decorativeness which such systems are generally intended to circumvent. This is probably because the systems and ideas which Rinke is involved with form the content of his work; they do not really determine its visual appearance as much as they are illustrated by it. This visual appearance seems familiar, involved with an ordinary kind of drawing which becomes really academic since, unconnected to Rinke’s feelings, it is not connected to his ideas. The large drawings of graphite on paper, bristol board and also the floor are thorough and energetic, with a kind of machismo draftsmanship which will probably be one of the hallmarks of the ’70s. The basis of much of Rinke’s work is the idea of expansion from a point or center to infinity and sometimes back again, and the form it most often takes is some version of the circle.

The largest piece in the exhibition takes up an entire wall. It is called Circular Expansion and consists of 56 16' strips of paper on the wall and 56 small photographs on the floor. On each strip of paper is a portion of a circle, the radius of which increases strip by strip, going from left to center, and then decreases again going from center to right. Thus, the two outermost strips have only an invisible point on them, while the strips at the center are almost entirely covered with graphite. Of course, as the section on the paper enlarges, the section off the paper does too, so less and less of the total circle is actually visible even though the paper may be almost totally black. It’s interesting to think about these enormous unseen circles that suggest the mind-boggling abstractions dealt with in adolescence: continental America will fit into Siberia four times; if the population of China marches into the sea four abreast, the activity at the back of the line would be such that, etc. etc. The drawing seems to illustrate some notion of outer space, like watching the approach of a planet out of the corner of one eye, never being able to see the entire thing and seeing less of it as it gets closer. In front of this piece is a row of photographs on the floor. The first (far left) is a close-up of Rinke’s heels, the last (far right) is a close-up of his toes. In between he moves away from the camera, his back to it, to the center point of invisibility and back again, this time facing the camera. The photographs involve a similar looplike closed sequence, although the loop is an inverse of the one in the drawing. Since the photographs are small, they must be looked at one at a time, clarifying that the drawing is also segmental, that each strip functions as a frame within a frozen action, like a single point along a line. The quality of the strips as a single whole detracts from the work, locating itself somewhere between Vasarely and Art Déco.

A second large piece seems even more literally representational. Again there is a series of drawings: 15 of them, graphite on 60“ x 40” bristol board under glass and in butting steel frames. The drawing is actually continuous but broken into segments by the frames. (The idea of the frames functioning conceptually is interesting, but Rinke’s drawing cannot match this kind of logic.) From a point at the left edge of the left-most section, hundreds of graphite lines radiate out in all possible 180°, continuing across the remaining 14 sections. As this expansion progresses, the lines radiate off the drawing and there is, once more, the sense of seeing only a portion of something immense which goes beyond the surface Rinke is working on. The third large piece reiterates this point. It consists of three circles of radiating graphite lines, each with its center marked by a plum line from the ceiling. The first line is in an open area, the second is against a wall, the third in a corner. Consequently a whole, half and quarter circle are visible. But the implication is that, despite the limitations and obstacles of paper size or architecture, the entire whole is there somewhere, for us to ponder. There is a touch of the Hand of God in all this—as if Rinke’s art had been chosen as a vehicle through which the universe is made visible. The notion of infinity is successfully if simplistically conveyed in this work. This is uninteresting, but all right. What makes it all actively uninteresting is a rather cosmic seriousness that is self-conscious without the kind of self-consciousness, humor and modesty that would make it all bearable.

Roberta Smith