Heavy Heritage

A hundred years ago sculptors started to discover and explore the abstract form. Subsequently, before and after World War I, abstract sculpture saw a kind of “classical period.” The sons and grandsons of that generation – featured in “Abstrakt////Skulptur” at the Georg Kolbe Museum must struggle to keep up with those halcyon days of art.

What can they do? Bow down before the classical heroes? Quote them? Or revolt against them instead? For starters: None of the artists had the guts to do so. But why should they anyway? The times of revolutions in art have long since passed. That’s the feeling that this exhibition strongly evokes. Most of the art on display can’t escape from referring to the classical period in one way or the other.

Tentatives to escape

Take Katja Strunz, for example. Her sheet metal and wood sculptures address the heritage of geometric constructivism. But instead of the usual upward dynamic, her works often express a downward movement, a strong gesture of disappointment – very different from the optimistic zeitgeist that accompanied the classical period.

Thomas Kiesewetter found a more ironic approach to deal with the disillusion of our times. His monochrome sheet steel sculptures look like paper models at the first glance. Everything seems to be made in a hurry: sloppy cuts, cockeyed screws and dented sheets. Kiesewetter’s sculptures thus become parodies of the ideals of constructivism.

Using humor as a helpful distancing technique seems to be a popular strategy. Gereon Krebber’s “Oxomoeno” (2008), made out of hangers and cable straps, is a snake wiggling around one wall. It doesn’t even try to look serious. And that’s a good thing.

Everyday materials also play an important role in the work of Isabel Kerkermeier. Stockings and rubber straps–“feminine” or “soft” textures–counterbalance the chrome-plated tubes from which her sculptures are constructed. Their roots are in the modernist furniture design of the 1920s, following in the tradition of technical rationalism. Kerkmeier’s work “Equilibrium” (2009) profits from the volatile combination of the contrasting materials.

Constructivism at its most provocative level

The strongest works nevertheless are the ones that try to be most independent of any classical model. Olaf Holzapfel‘s acrylic glass sculptures just seem to be challenged by the material itself. With its complex folds, “Aufenthalt” (2008) looks like a blend of a pillows and a package, soft and changeable, although the material is hard and rigid after execution.

Even the texts on display here, most of them very well written and helpful, make a connection to constructivism. Obvious references are everywhere, not only to art itself, by the way, but also to art criticism: The paper-mache Wolfgang Flad used for his “HEADI” (2008) is made out of shredded art reviews. In this way, thinking and writing about art ultimately becomes real art. We love it!

On view until September 4, 2011.