Rolf Walz

Galerie Tanja Grunert

In viewing Rolf Walz’s photopictures—all of which have the same format and bear the same title— we can hardly speak of photographs in a clear-cut sense of the word. By using diverse methods of reproduction, Walz is trying to find a location outside of subjective and conceptual photography, while not excluding reminiscences of painting. As a result, his pictures are reflections on pictures, ultimately becoming pictures in their own right. Walz specifically intends to translate a second-, third-, or fourth-degree reality of found, appropriated, mass-produced photographs. His approach is conceptual, as revealed by the single and overall title of the works in his exhibition: “Möglichkeiten und Beispiele” (Possibilities and examples, 1988). He counterbalances the mechanical truth of each photograph with the metaphorical truth of the disparate means of technical reproduction.

In these terms, Möglichkenen und Beispiele 4 is typical. After finding a photo of land mines and military equipment in a news magazine, the artist blew up the picture and transferred the photocopy to paper via acetone. This copy constitutes the first photographic reference, followed, in layers, by more references of diverse origins. They contain, in sequence: geometric rectangles and circles, grids and diagrams, and ascending plumes of smoke (a copy of a photo showing a crashed plane). Homogeneously superimposed on a surface, the individual references quickly lose any resemblance to pictorial quotation, so that any possibility of deciphering them is nipped in the bud.

Seldom have photographs been less precise, less penetrating, more distorted than these. The accord between the pictorial object and the subject matter has largely vanished. Using the lack of reciprocity between upper and lower layers, Walz creates an ambivalent, sometimes unfathomable picture surface. This ambivalence makes the appropriated pictorial references highly imprecise, partially alienating them or dissolving them into apparitions of pictures.

Employing as a basis Walter Benjamin’s theories about the technologically reproduced artwork, Walz concentrates on the autonomy of his diverse reproductive techniques. In a sense, we can speak of a second-generation imagination that creates a loose, almost painterly surface in one piece by means of silk-screening, or macroscopic grids in another by photomechanical means, or else conjures up blurriness by copying. These approaches produce a sovereign pictorial world, in which photographic, pictorial reality fuses with the reality of diverse technological modes of reproduction, creating metaphoric pictures about pictures. Walz treats technological methods of reproduction as if they could become the new means of sensory experience.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel