Playful Forms

Funky minimal. This is the term Berlin-based Austrian artist Gerwald Rockenschaub (b. 1952) uses to describe his practice. With a career spanning over four decades, Rockenschaub has established himself as a master of visually-driven art that seamlessly blends elements of dynamism and vibrancy. The two words reflect a varied and rich artistry that pays attention to line and shape. Emerging from the 1980s Neo-Geo movement, he has created an oeuvre that bears the imprint of American Minimalism as well as Pop Art. Yet his work belongs to neither; instead, it weaves between genre and style, moving from painting and foil pictures, to more tactile mediums of sculpture, installation as well as digital animation.

Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, presents the eighth solo exhibition of the artist: bass+ (re)modification, on display until 18 May. In a large white room, a black horizontal line runs across three walls. Dotted above and below, we see a series of rectangular, monochrome MDF panels. These vary in size and palette – on one end we witness a vibrant neon green, on the other, a quiet, slim blue. There’s a sense of coolness and play at hand, invoked by geometric shapes that are constantly in conversation with each other. We feel an energy bounce off each board, reflecting and reverberating across the gallery in a way that suggests lyricality. You’d be forgiven for thinking that these panels represent bars of sound, as if to emulate a musical software application. We follow the installation, reading it from one end of the space to the other, nodding along to the panels like beats, taking colour, and dimension as indication of pitch or duration. The reminder of a soundscape is inevitable – driven by Rockenshaub’s career as a DJ in the 1990s. He explains, “I take a similar approach to creating a painting, an object, a sculpture or an exhibition concept as I do composing a piece of music. I think very musically. Choreography, dramaturgy, rhythm, always play a role.”

He continues, “My works allow the viewer to experience architecture.” This is one of the key pulls of Rockenshaub’s work. Romantic / Eclectic, displayed at the historic Ely House in Mayfair, London in 2019, made a playground out of the eighteenth century mansion. Plexiglas tiles, screwed directly onto the wall, mimicked a black and white tiled hallway. The floor appeared doubled, parts of it broken up, realised again above a Georgian chimney. Other notable works include a giant inflatable cuboid, an imposing bouncy castle in yellow PVC-flow (Untitled, 200) as well as circuit cruise / feasible memory/regulator (2022), a loop of 24 digital animations installed at Vienna’s Belvedere 21. Both pieces show the the artist’s ability to reach into the sensory, multimedia realm. In the latter, shapes resembling silhouettes of human faces flicker on repeat. The result is mesmerising, exploring the relationship between perception, reality and rhythm.

Gerwald Rockenschaub - Artists - Galerie Eva Presenhuber

Rockenshaub shows off a vocabulary that is exact and meticulous. He drafts his objects on the computer, before having them produced by specialised firms. In this way, he underscores the interdisciplinary nature of his works, balancing roles between designer, graphic artist and sculptor. This exactitude is felt everywhere; each object has its own time and place. When walking into bass+ (re)modification, we find two squares, a peach-orange and sapphire, nestled next to each other. Their edges, unlike the other panels in the main hall, touch. The result is unabashedly funky and momentarily intimate: viewers are invited to delve deep into the nuances of form, to consider the closeness a space, and line can offer.

bass+ (re)modification | Until 18 May

Image Credits:

1. Installation View, Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, 2008. © Gerwald Rockenschaub.

2. Installation view, Gerwald Rockenschaub, bass+ (re)modification, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Maag Areal, 2024 © Gerwald Rockenschaub. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / Vienna. Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography, Zürich

3. Installation view, Gerwald Rockenschaub: geometric playground (flamboyant edit), Eva Presenhuber, New York, 2018 © Gerwald Rockenschaub. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich / Vienna. Photo: Matt Grubb

4. Installation view, Gerwald Rockenschaub, Romantic / Eclectic (Remodelled Carousel Edit), Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac London 02 April – 11 May 2019 © Courtesy Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac. Gerwald Rockenschaub. Photo: Ben Westoby