Michael Reiter

Galerie Daniel Bucholz

Michael Reiter’s art is casually decorative. He seems to aspire to a realm of carefree playfulness between painting and sculpture. Reiter remains, however, in the shadow of a highly stylized conceptual approach and his endeavor focuses on the basic structures of perception; colors change at specific intervals (by means of stripes), and the textures of cloth are varied with constructed elements. His method seems to oscillate; Reiter combines collage techniques, cheerful Pop-like simplicity, and a kind of minimalism. The paintings that result are multidimensional systems of order.

Along with a certain crude facture, the decisive characteristic of these paintings is their visual cheeriness expressed in their titles: Kissen (Freude am Einschlafen) (Cushions [The joy of falling asleep], 1987); Fleischfressende Pflanze fressende (Eating meat-eating plants, 1989); Sonnenwende (Solstice, 1989); and Wolken (Clouds, 1989). These paintings abstractly recall toys, the backdrops at country fairs, and big broadsheets that can be opened wide. Derived from readymade striped materials, such as standard awning canvas, which are sewn together and sometimes painted over, Reiter’s works manage to avoid intellectual implications beyond their delightful formal qualities. Partly due to the accessibility of the popular material, however, they increasingly hint at narrative and rhetorical possibilities beneath their emphatically material garb. They speak of such things as the condition of the material employed (for instance, that it has usually been found as is and used) and about its functions (that awnings have been used in the production of beach umbrellas, which accounts for their often faded colors). More than anything else, however, these paintings convey the joie de vivre of a society at leisure.

Frequently Reiter’s pictures depict their own titles with movable cloth letters. Indeed, Farbraum (Color space, 1989) becomes almost a tautology, when the twin formulas of color = space and word = image are applied. Out of their playfulness emerges a dynamic semantic pictorial space; lengths of red cloth, tailored into letters, appear as if on a small stage. The letters form both the word Farbraum and the painting. A reading that sees and a seeing that reads occur cheek by jowl, in a mutually dependent relationship.

Reiter’s work follows a particular esthetic course within contemporary art. He tries to connect his paintings to play, to folk art, and to the general public. His efforts constitute a kind of conceptual realism; the work of art quotes from reality to achieve a balance between spontaneous delight and expressive form. However footloose and fancy-free Reiter’s art is, it proves effective in its attempts at communicating practically and directly with the audience.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.