Zurich

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Considered Unrepresentative, 2016, powder-coated steel and galvanized metal, 51 1/8 × 23 5/8 × 17 3/4". Photo: Peter Baracchi.

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Considered Unrepresentative, 2016, powder-coated steel and galvanized metal, 51 1/8 × 23 5/8 × 17 3/4". Photo: Peter Baracchi.

Koenraad Dedobbeleer

Mai 36 Galerie

Koenraad Dedobbeleer, Considered Unrepresentative, 2016, powder-coated steel and galvanized metal, 51 1/8 × 23 5/8 × 17 3/4". Photo: Peter Baracchi.

The low, bulging cast-iron stove was firmly connected to the architecture of the exhibition space by a shiny new tin stovepipe. At the entrance to a gallery whose glazed frontage suggests modern comforts such as central heating, it felt misplaced yet strangely familiar, an object from a distant past. The small, mostly black-and-white, wood-framed photographic prints in Koenraad Dedobbeleer’s exhibition “Images Entertain Thought” similarly played with the gulf between past and present.

Specifically, these images emphasized the gulf between the objects they depict and the long history of the photographic medium itself. The Belgian artist’s true subject is sculpture. His photographs, taken with an analog camera, show aspects of sculptural creation, small still lifes, or three-dimensional scenes that might be stills excerpted from the flux of spatial perception. A bare hand flowing into the picture from above or projecting into the frame from below read as the photographic record of an elementary gesture in two separate images collectively titled Abstraction as a Program, 2016. The images kept shifting the mode of contemplation: The circular opening between the lines of a Thonet bentwood chair’s back that appears in three versions in Serve, 2016, exemplified the transmutation of sculpted form into image; in Interested in the Things Being Themselves, 2016, printed and folded views of Brancusi’s studio next to a potted plant briefly evoked the spatial illusion of an interior. Zooming in for a sharp shot of the gleaming black circular shape of a loudspeaker in Culture and Prevailing Ideology, 2016, the camera lent the object a novel relief, while the elegantly tailored dark men’s jacket with a single glinting round button of the diptych Couched in the Language, 2015, might have seemed like a black surface doubled in a mirror. A less veiled allusion to Malevich’s historic Black Square, 1915, appeared in the form of a monochrome photo negative, an expanse of opaque sheen: Apparently Still an Immanent Problem, 2016.

The conceptual approach that defines Dedobbeleer’s art becomes significant in the tense conjunction with the physical presence of his artworks. As today’s media-infatuated culture dissolves all objects into a mass of data, sculpture reemerges in the artist’s work as a “graven” image, with the photographic process extended by a graphic one: The same pictures that graced the walls as framed prints appear as a printed sequence in a publication accompanying the exhibition and perhaps subsequently in one of the artist’s books. The integration of sculpture into visual narratives suggests a kinship with the work of Harald Klingelhöller, whose sculptural practice is informed and sustained throughout by his engagement with elements of verbal language.

Aside from the already-mentioned stove piece, Considered Unrepresentative, 2016, the show included several additional sculptures. A red pole docked to the wall used one magnet to hold up a packet of smaller ones (One Sided Quest for Orientation, 2016), while two magnets on another pole, gray and fixed to both floor and wall, displayed a pair of color postcards (Early Knowledge Obliterated, 2016). Presentation was also the purpose of a slightly tilted reflective fruit bowl, Explore and Exploit the Contradictions, 2016. A playful pipe ornament painted a luscious purple rises from the vessel’s center, its charming form blending functionalism with a nod to fruit stems. The surprising twists of wit and oddity in Dedobbeleer’s pictures and objects make his art a perpetually wide-open question.

The exhibition brochure containing selected photographs was titled The Sculptor’s Workshop: Images Entertain Thought. One could detect humor and even a hint of irony. Yet the visitor noted entirely without the latter that Dedobbeleer’s ingenuity is indeed entertaining. The stove he built into his show is both a functional object and a sculptural image of one. That’s something to think about.

Hans Rudolf Reust

Translated from German by Gerrit Jackson.