Klaus Rinke

In Germany, at least, Klaus Rinke, now fifty years old, is gaining long-overdue recognition. His mostly sculptural works are marked by an independent artistic approach and a unique execution. Furthermore, after years of teaching at the Düsseldorf academy, Rinke has influenced several young sculptors, including Tony Cragg and Asta Gröting, both better known than he. This exhibition covered work of the past two years. These are quiet pieces, which, upon contemplation, reveal the essence of Rinke’s oeuvre. His works defy the usual categories of sculpture, and perhaps that’s why they have lurked in the shadows of the contemporary art scene.

Shown here were black pencil drawings done on pigskin or goatskin. They show simple primary forms such as circles, semicircles, or ovals that are generously pulled across the large surfaces. They look like evocative archaic formulas that indicate more than the merely formal. Indeed, Rinke himself interprets the recurring three figures as a mythological trinity that has been appearing since time immemorial. The skin drawings, roughly three feet high, are framed in light-colored wood. Next to them, various objects are propped against the wall. These are exclusively natural or manmade items: on the one hand, a black coral from Baja California, a turtle shell, an agave leaf; on the other hand, a Mexican drum, an ancient Japanese saw, and a Turkish dagger. Initially, these objects seem to have no connection with the drawings; yet they do have a common origin—the creative moment.

It is precisely this moment that Rinke tries to locate in his drawings. Influenced by Australian aboriginal art, Rinke searches for the one source of all creative processes. He believes he has discovered not only a common wellspring, but also many parallels among the most diverse creative processes—among an agave leaf, which is the product of nature’s creative process, a drum, which is made by human hands, and a drawing, which results from artistic creativity. Thus, Rinke is convinced that the task of today’s art is to restore its harmony with such natural processes.

Rinke’s idea resolutely contradicts the modern West European notion that art is the highest human good that can be achieved outside natural phenomena, as a purely spiritual abstract vision. With his art, Rinke exposes this claim as arrogant with respect to nature and the creative spirit closely linked with nature—as a claim the impotence of which is now becoming more and more blatant. In this way, Rinke demonstrates that the principles of Modernism, as well as the space for the goals of this tradition, are extremely questionable.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.