Tobias Rehberger

The objects exhibited in “Fragments of their pleasant spaces (in my fashionable version)” have a peculiar provenance. Tobias Rehberger asked five friends for a description of a “comfortable niche”; then, taking their responses, he created five groups of furniture, painstakingly executed, including a seemingly Arp-inspired seating area and a wood stand that facilitates watching the news on TV while cooking, titled Cutting, preparing, without missing anything, and being happy about what comes next (all works 1999). Another piece, a wide, cushioned platform set on a carpet with a side table sporting built-in shelves, is called Lying around lazy. Not even moving for TV, sweets, coke and Vaseline.

Rehberger seems to take inspiration not only from the ’60s and ’70s but from contemporary fashion designers like Helmut Lang. The resulting work, with its allusions to the “mod” forms of the ’60s and the colors of the ’70s, manifests a peculiar, nostalgia-tinted unity. This exhibition was an update of the show Rehberger held at the same gallery under the same name three years ago. And while he used the same descriptions from the same five friends, the artist’s realization of their ideas has changed. Rehberger’s new objects are more reserved than his earlier, cheerfully colored pieces.

In this work, it’s not the idea but the execution that Rehberger puts forward as art. He thereby challenges one of the untouchable tenets of Conceptualism: That the idea behind the artwork is the essence of the artwork, while the execution, a form of skilled trade, retains only negligible meaning. Since the emergence of Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptualism in the ’60s, it has been commonplace for the artist to come up with an idea and leave its execution to others. John Baldessari’s “Commissioned Paintings” come immediately to mind. There, the artist simply pointed to what others should paint. Rehberger turns this process on its head, borrowing “his” ideas from friends, visitors, even the general public. (In 1997, he asked visitors to the Frankfurt Portikus for their suggestions about improving the space. For his subsequent exhibition, he put down green wood flooring, set up a seating area, and enlarged the signs for the bathrooms, where he also provided reading material. . . . ) Rehberger thus allies himself with those artists of the ’60s and ’70s who wanted to bring the public into their process, believing that, through artistic intervention, the everyday could be transformed.

Noemi Smolik

Translated from German by Elizabeth Felicella.