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Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents monumental sculptures by Bruno Gironcoli
Bruno Gironcoli, Prototypes for a New Species, exhibition view, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, 2019, Photo: Hans Christian Krass.

FRANKFURT.- From February 14 to May 12, 2019, the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt is presenting a selection of monumental sculptures from the late work of the artist Bruno Gironcoli (1936–2010) in a thought-provoking exhibition. The Austrian artist is considered to be one of the most important sculptors of his generation. Beginning in the early 1960s, he drew on his never-ending inventive voracity to create a highly idiosyncratic and remarkable oeuvre rendered in a very personal and individual visual language. In groups of ever-new works, he continually succeeded in finding an unmistakable and yet surprising voice. Wire sculptures gave way to hollow-body forms, polyester objects, and disconcerting environments. Gironcoli’s work always focused on the individual and his abysses. The artist shared his existential questions and politically motivated avant-garde thought with fellow artists of the Viennese scene. His aesthetics of exorbitance and opulence constantly gave rise to excrescences and curlicues and have inspired numerous younger artists, including former students such as Franz West, Hans Schabus, or Ugo Rondinone.

In 1977, Gironcoli took over direction of the sculpture school of the Akademie der bildenden Knste (Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna). For the first time, he began to create sculptures that filled or frequently even defied space, made possible by the generous studio situation. As if derived from a theater of the absurd or a surreal dream world, the gigantic objects seem to be Prototypes for a new species, enveloped in shining, seductive surfaces of gold, silver, and copper. The Schirn is presenting a total of six of these sculptures—both inside and outside in the rotunda. Foreign and yet familiar, their organic forms and set pieces stem from an everyday culture that is often oriented toward the local: one soon believes to make out a wine barrel, an ear of wheat, or a vine. Then again, Gironcoli stages a strange march of infants or an imposing, ant-like sculpture. His magnificent and unsettling works never fail to surprise as postmodern pastiches.

Dr. Philipp Demandt, the Director of the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt: “As one of the first exhibitions in the New Year, the Schirn is presenting the late work of the exceptional Austrian artist Bruno Gironcoli. His Prototypes, these machine-like entities, do truly seem very alive, impress with their monumentality, and at once look as though they could be either archaic finds or utopian designs. Although Gironcoli influenced entire generations of artists with his idiosyncratic, singular oeuvre, exhibited at the Biennials in So Paulo and Venice, and his work was presented in many large exhibitions, he is, unfortunately, still largely unknown and much too little appreciated in Germany.”

The curator of the exhibition, Dr. Martina Weinhart, says about Bruno Gironcoli: “In approaching the universe of Bruno Gironcoli, the term hybrid perhaps fits best. It applies to the static quality that keeps these massive and monumental sculptures in motion. It also applies to the foreverunfinished quality of the works, which will be reassembled time and again, and grow together to form new units, new sculptures. The character of the Prototypes is the in-between. They are representational and abstract, alien and familiar at the same time. They are avant-garde and somehow also folkloristic, monumental in a loudmouthed way, and sensitively conceived. They are a resolutely shaped realm between things, fashions, and eras.”

Bruno Gironcoli began his artistic career with an apprenticeship as a goldsmith in Innsbruck. This was followed by studying at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. His first sculptural works, consisting of wire objects and assemblages of objects, were created at the end of the 1950s. He came into contact with the ideas of existentialism, the writings of the author Samuel Beckett (1906–1989), and the works of the Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901–1966) in Paris in 1960–61, all of which influenced him over the long-term as an artist. In his early sculptural works such as the Heads series from the early and mid-1960s, he examined possibilities for presenting the human figure. He created works in paper-mch and polyester that captivate with their powerful, compact language of forms reduced to only the most necessary elements. Gironcoli’s interest in Marxist theory and the Frankfurt School were also reflected in the choice of materials for his sculptures. Even in this early work, the smooth surfaces of his Kpfe (Heads), which appear so perfectly golden, silver, or bronze-colored, are not the result of expensive castings, but instead are coated with inexpensive, oven spray paint or other affordable goods from DIY stores.

Around the end of the 1960s, Gironcoli moved away from a relatively conventional concept of sculpture –despite its innovative power– and toward a more complex handling of space and, in particular, of viewers. During this time, he created works such as the Raumwinkel (Spatial Angles) series: perplexing environments consisting of diverse everyday objects, in which viewers were understood as active protagonists in a scene. The environments are stages for actions that are simultaneously closely connected with the performative works of Viennese Actionism. Gironcoli’s installations of the 1970s show a certain affinity and thematic connection to Viennese Actionism and to the texts of the Wiener Gruppe (Vienna Group), although the artist was only involved peripherally in its activities. He synthesized the influences of the Viennese Actionists with Arte Povera, new figuration, the object concept of the artist Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), and the new medium of environments that was slowly becoming established, and with them once again found a path to a distinct language.

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