Ulrich Rückriem

Espai Poblenou

Ulrich Rückriem’s installation in the exhibition hall of this Foundation follows those of Jannis Kounellis (who opened it with a historic installation in 1989), Jan Dibbets, Mario Merz, John Cage, Bruce Naumann, Rebeca Horn, Richard Long, and even that of two young artists, the Spaniards José Maldonado and Aureli Ruiz. Rückriem was invited to work on the infrastructure of this naked space. Adopting stone as the primary raw material of his installation, his response to the space reflected his esthetic concerns. For Rückriem, stone represents the state prior to being and to life, and the irreducible character he attributes to it is changed through his initiative into “possibility.” His experience as a stonecutter and his participation in the restoration of the Cologne cathedral from 1959 to 1961 carry more weight in the creation of his sculptures than do the legacies of Constructivism and Minimalism. He himself has affirmed this again and again, insisting on his independence and on his obsession for this material, which is inseparable from his obsession for the artisan’s craft. Thus, from the complexity of stone’s internal makeup are born structural sections that are cut into compact blocks, provoking a movement into its interior through the separation or disintegration of the three-dimensional surfaces, and the subsequent rearticulation of the resulting parts.

Without ignoring the preexisting architectonic elements, Rückriem has completely appropriated the empty space at his disposal, even in the placement of the bases of the columns, detached or semidetached from the walls, like square rings that contain and hind. These bases offer irregular sections, and are all made of autochthonous granite, except the one placed next to a pillar on the bottom floor of the building, which is made of iron. What strikes the viewer is the geometrical rigor: the meaning of classical measure and balance are placed in the service of a contemporary language. Each sculpture implies a gesture and an act in relation to the subject hidden behind it. Rückriem has mastered the material he uses; he has subjected it to all kinds of experiments and studied its different reactions, dematerializing or dispossessing it, so to speak, in order to make it capable of a conceptual representation that will never be foreign to its origin. One must avoid excesses, according to him, and allow the work to maintain its disturbing aspect in the external appearance it adopts.

In his work, stone is the carrier of a grammar that regulates the syntax of the forms that emerge from it, in much the same way that Rückriem begins with a drawing on paper, which is later transferred to stone on whose surface sections are created via the application of different techniques. The parts are then reunited to reconstruct the original block, although it can no longer be the same. By not admitting concessions of any kind, Rückriem’s enterprise is both austere and radical in its proposals.

Menene Gras Balaguer

Translated from the Spanish by Vincent T. Martin.