Harald Klingelhöller

Harald Klingelhöller uses letters of the alphabet to blur the boundary between the pictorial and the linguistic. In his recent show, "Alle Metaphern werden wahr” (All metaphors come true), which contained a selection of sculptural assemblages created over the past decade, the entire exhibition space became a container for language. Klingelhöller builds sculptures out of three-dimensional letters cut out of various materials, including plasterboard, steel, cast iron, cardboard, and glass. The letters in a given piece, which are often the same as its title, are arranged into blocklike forms that are displayed on the floor of the exhibition space or suspended from its ceiling.

Materiality and gravity play central roles in Klingelhöller’s work. The words that are incorporated into the sculptures become objects, each with its own particular weight and expressive potential. As they hang, lie, pile up, and weigh on or slip over one another, the letters come to resemble actors in a drama. Works with titles like “The Unholy Should Have Human Features” (Das Unheil soil menschliche Zuege haben, 1989) or “Sleep Tight” (Schlaf tief, 1992) are unstable constructions, a fragile balance of loosely assembled parts. Certain symmetrical letters—w and m, for example—are favored for their potential for concealment or obfuscation. The sculptures synthesize visual and linguistic elements in such a way that not all of the parts can be identified as letters: what remains resists language.

Klingelhöller’s assemblages have a refined air, and by giving the play of forces in a body at rest such a central role, his work approaches traditional sculpture. This play of forces can seem impressive or mannered, depending on one’s take. Particularly in the works that are suspended from the ceiling, gravity largely determines the form. In these pieces, words hang suggestively in the air, and letters seem to fall out of the discursive frame. While the engagement with language and sculpture in these constructions often remains bound to the structural, Klingelhöller’s works pose questions that ultimately transcend it.

Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by Diana Reese.