Asta Gröting

Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen

Strikingly distributed throughout this generous space, the ten works here by Asta Gröting—both floor and wall pieces—come across as consciously modern avatars of what might generally be called “appealing art.” The most obvious feature of these pieces is their surprising materiality, followed by the intense up-to-dateness of their esthetics of impact: the tendency to be cool and rational. Transparent materials such as glass and plastic are used along with more amorphous materials such as rubber and modeling clay. Organic nature, in the guise of wood, coexists with found or manufactured objects. Primary industrial products, such as glass in opaque black, or transparent bottlelike forms without top or bottom, or conveyor-belt parts sewn into wheellike forms: these materials lend a quality of process to some of Gröting’s works. Others, especially the wall pieces, connect that quality with pictorial stasis. Close correlations occur. These pieces intensify materiality and link it to emotional reality, forging a dichotomy between meaning and nonmeaning.

Gröting’s art opens up a sober world with an objective, matter-of-fact attitude. While her use of glass, wood, and rubber may evoke, say, arse povera, her overall concept falls flat. And while her glass objects in metal armatures may aspire to the metaphysical, they are not supported by an intellectual concept. Context, metaphor, and poetics, which live in these compilations of material, are consistently denied. Gröting’s work quite explicitly demands an unencumbered display of material, a spontaneous, playful improvisation. However, the problem here seems to be that the material world—organic or inorganic—is exposed as merely a world of appearances and stylized as an overwhelming materiality of facts.

Often enough, the esthetic effect in these works stems from the application of industrial principles to the organic and vice versa. The reference to the autonomous eality of the material, outer world seems to constitute the focus of Gröting’s artistic concept. She appears to invest all physical material with an intrinsic sculptural existence freed of all meaning. By pointing toward this unencumbered freedom, committed exclusively to a natural or industrial world of facts, Gröting hopes to express clear sculptural facts, mainly regarding material contrasts.

If the rational reflections emerging from Gröting’s work are uncomplicated, then the symbolic alternation that she pursues in contrasting material is all the more complicated and, by its very nature, purely speculative. This alternation of metaphorical, contextual, or poetic contexts of materials—that is, unencumbered sculptural contexts—is meant to appear playfully or spontaneously. It can, however, only be wrested forth by benevolent abstract thinking. But how can a viewer facing an “unencumbered” sculptural situation rule out the possibility of seeking meaning through context, through things that are to be excluded—namely, the ideas developed by others before Gröting, the references to art history and their always encumbered contextuality?

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.