Gert Rappenecker

Galerie Schorm

The works in this show come from Gert Rappenecker’s “Norderney Series,” 1990, and “Clay Drawings,” 1990–91. Actually, all of Rappenecker’s works here are untitled, and the series titles appear only in parentheses; the titles are thus more an aid in classification than a stimulus to association. Accordingly, the categories, and not so much the individual works, bring up art-historical references.

For the “Norderney Series,” named after a German island in the North Sea, the point of departure is the classical seascape. Rappenecker’s seascapes, however, are altered photographs: the horizon, as it meets a churning sea, is replaced by an artificial horizon, a white expanse created by not exposing this part of the photograph. The “Clay Drawings” are equally ambiguous. The subjective technique of drawing contrasts to the technoid appearance of the works. Values such as subjectivity and individual gesture, uniqueness and authenticity are simultaneously introduced and withdrawn. This method of asserting and questioning at the same time is apparent in the drawing itself as well: superimposed on the lines are circles that have been stamped into it using glasses, cans, and other such objects. A third group of works consists of photographs mounted on “Eternit,” a kind of synthetic stone; these reproduce sections of rock structures that have been cast in plaster.

Rappenecker’s parenthetical work-classifications locate his series in referential proximity to Romantic painting (Casper David Friedrich, for instance) and introduce on a linguistic level those views of nature and of the artist’s self-image. This reference is so radically negated in the works themselves that these landscapes cannot be entered even in one’s imagination. Reflections on the difference between works founded on uniqueness and authenticity and those technically reproduced lead to the overused vocabulary associated with Walter Benjamin’s concept of aura. Given that Rappenecker’s work produces an unyielding ambiguity, an irritation deliberately aimed at just such concepts, how can the viewer work with this conceptual framework? Can one speak of a loss of authenticity in the “Clay Drawings,” for instance, simply because they are cast in aluminum? Artistic uniqueness is embodied in the initial step of drawing; it then recedes in the second step due to the technological process. In the end, though, this produces a uniqueness of a new and different type.

These casts and the altered photographs are a kind of abstract narration. They tell of the loss of immediate experience, of the impossibility of totally excluding subjectivity from the creative process—without necessarily letting that become a value in its own right. They tell of the possibility of a connection with nature—without falling into a Romantic rapture.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.