Rivka Rinn

Galleria Mazzocchi

In our century, the connection between new art and the traditions that have preceded it implies the Picasso model, by which an artist appropriates the most varied techniques, incorporates the most disparate objects and elements, cultivates stylistic discontinuity, and pursues a nomadism of the imagination and experience. Yet, despite such a heterogeneous approach, a characteristic “something” persisted in the work of each artist who followed that model. It may be a particular kind of motif that, for most post-Picasso artists, has signified “form,” in the noblest sense attributed to this word by Western culture. But, even when an artist eliminated the distinctive motif that characterized the work, another “something” always remained discernible and constant: the personality of the artist. This is less easily identifiable, but nonetheless, as in a trial based entirely on circumstantial evidence, one could always figure out the author of the misdeed through the reconstruction of the personality and through the individuation of the difficult yet inescapable relationship between work and person (opus and persona), misdeed and author.

Today the opposite is more and more the case, with the individual artist increasingly abandoning his/her established persona and engaging in unprotected wanderings. (Perhaps the best examples are the enchanted versatility of Thomas Schütte and Günther Förg’s works of passionate homage to Blinky Palermo.) It is not that the artist is naked like Adam in Eden but rather that he wears different clothes according to necessity, fashion, personal advantage, and unforeseen impulses of desire.

This is one reason—though not the only one, for we will see another, different in origin and more intimately tied to the particularity of the artist—why in this show of 24 works by Rivka Rinn we see a plurality of attempts that cannot easily be traced back to a common denominator or organized in a self-signifying installation, in the manner of, for example, a John Armleder or a Haim Steinbach. Some of these works (all from 1987) are found objects whose form is more or less geometric and which are interesting because of their pattern—such as Interior, which consists of a small metal grate—or their material surface—such as the used sandpaper polishing disks of Senza titolo, hung on the wall like a painting. Several works are rigorously abstract multipanel paintings, in which two or more small, usually monochrome rectangles or squares are arranged in rectilinear configurations that make use of the bare white wall as part of the composition. In some of these, all of the panels are painted canvases done in oil and spray acrylic (as in Combined Shapes, for example); others also include panels of untreated raw materials (such as wood, in Nocturne/Interpretation, or metal, as in Frames and Shadescape). A few of the works combine drawing and painting, and, like Voyager II, feature images of high-tech machinery drawn on canvases painted with an undefined gray ground. There are also diptychs (Painting on Two Planes) and triptychs (Triplanes) in which the panels are connected by visible clamps, and mixed-media works in which utilitarian mechanical objects have been mounted against lumpy-textured paintings done in an Austro-German “grand manner,” as in Object/Painting.

Rather than being an exemplary repository—in the sentimental sense of Komar and Melamid, or in the conceptual sense of Group Material (both of which have strong, deeply rooted sociological components)—Rinn’s work is a private gallery of bold illustrations of a rambling voyage. And this is where the second reason, referred to above, comes in: the deliberate absence of any laws that must be adhered to. The myth of art as a process leading toward self-awareness and liberation thus reveals itself to be more influential at the periphery than at the center of the empire. (Rinn is Israeli and, before moving to Florence, she lived in Vienna for years.) Once the fading codes of a local tradition have been abandoned, and when there is a weakening of the power of the center to provide a meaningful framework—always strong in imperial areas, whether historical and cultural in Europe, or stylistic-mercantile sociological in late-Reaganite America—a virtually infinite series of “free” options open up. Rinn roves about with a sort of restrained passion among the options offered by contemporary art, dwelling, in subtly sorrowful manner, on one element or another, having glimpsed an object or a material as a point of support for her tentative voyage toward that something that was promised her at her departure. She moves lightly but with difficulty among the recommended ports of call, as if she had succumbed to the captivating ads of a travel agency.

Pier Luigi Tazzi

Translated from the Italian by Meg Shore.