Overturned Furniture was just one of Reiner Ruthenbeck’s iconic pieces shown at the Serpentine Gallery in a major survey of the German artist’s work.
This was the first major survey in the UK of German sculptor and conceptual artist Reiner Ruthenbeck (b. 1937). Ruthenbeck is an orchestrator of geometric form, noted for his ability to transform space using unconventional materials such as crumpled paper or swathes of fabric. Ruthenbeck’s work subverts the familiar, using minimalist objects and simple everyday materials to explore architecture, iconology, perception and, in later works, sound. In 2006, Ruthenbeck wrote: “We are moving towards immaterial art, yet we only approach it in small steps.” From 1968 to 1972, he created several piles and cones made of ash, slag and paper. Later, he would present utilitarian objects like chairs, tables and a suitcase, stripped of their function and thus exaggerating the objects’ pure shapes. The exhibition brought together, for the first time in the UK, many of these key moments in the artist’s career and included sculpture, objects and conceptual works.
Reiner Ruthenbeck in his own words
‘In my work I have often presented contrasts, polar elements, tensions, and tried to bring these into a formal unity. I have reduced formal structures as far as possible. The result seems to offer relatively little nourishment to the intellect. I would like thereby to bring the viewer to a contemplative, holistic acceptance of my art.’ –Reiner Ruthenbeck, 1986
‘I try to create something hovering, a balance. I want to maintain tranquillity. Everything can be traced back to polarity and unity – opposites that creation always builds on. Polarity has been a presence in my work almost from the beginning. Two different materials, hard and soft, or polarity based on colour, black and white. This pervades my whole work. We are moving towards immaterial art, yet we only approach it in small steps.’ –Reiner Ruthenbeck, 2006