Belvedere 21 opens an exhibition of works by Gerwald Rockenschaub

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Belvedere 21 opens an exhibition of works by Gerwald Rockenschaub
© 2022 Gerwald Rockenschaub.

VIENNA.- Colorful surfaces, figures, and shapes flicker, jerk, and twitch in a dynamic but silent manner on the walls: at the Belvedere 21, Gerwald Rockenschaub has created a sensory overload that is both minimalist and complex and extremely precisely staged, requiring close observation. 

General Director Stella Rollig: “Rockenschaub’s animations and their presentation at the Belvedere 21 demonstrate all the characteristics of his artistic production, including geometric abstraction, laconic reduction, flawless surfaces, art-historical references, pop appeal, and the use of the latest technologies. In keeping with his vision, Rockenschaub explores new forms of expression that challenge our perception and offer a singular visual experience.”

Gerwald Rockenschaub has been one of the most influential exponents of contemporary Austrian art for almost four decades. His multimedia work possesses a distinct style defined by the principle of distillation to a few but essential elements, structures, and color contrasts. The works of the radical minimalist are simple, devoid of narrative, yet complex: they range from his ink drawings of the early 1980s and abstract-geometric oil-on-canvas paintings associated with the Neo-Geo movement, to industrially produced acrylic glass, space-consuming installation works, and massive inflatable PVC objects, to the digital animations presented in this exhibition.

For several years Rockenschaub has been generating works and the dramaturgy of his exhibitions on the computer. They are quite humorous—especially when they relate to the history of art: they take a playful approach to the classical genres of painting such as abstraction, landscape, and (self-)portrait. The artist’s work is characterized by simple abstract forms that evoke associations with recognizable objects. Rockenschaub, also active as a DJ and musician since the late 1980s, composes his presentations in a rhythmic and beat-oriented manner, similar to techno tracks. This conceptual approach is particularly evident in the animations, which act like short visual tracks—albeit without sound.

Gerwald Rockenschaub developed the solo show circuit cruise / feasible memory/regulator with the main gallery of the Belvedere 21 in mind: a loop of 24 digital animations is shown on 24 monitors, which are evenly distributed along four large dark-gray walls. The artist has placed the screens like framed pictures in a classical painting exhibition, except that each screen features moving images that run at uneven tempos. In short sequences, animated geometric figures such as circles, semicircles, triangles, and squares are shown, along with networks of vertical and horizontal lines and pulsating, flickering surfaces. Shapes resembling reduced silhouettes of human faces, such as Rockenschaub’s head, can also be discerned in the loops. Often stark color contrasts amplify the momentum of the animations. Three brightly colored sculptures, configured at the center of the exhibition space, invite the viewer to sit or lean against them. Circuit cruise / feasible memory/regulator exposes viewers to a rhythmic staccato of patterns, structures, colors, and shapes from all sides. With this site-specific installation, Rockenschaub addresses the architectural conditions of Karl Schwanzer’s glass pavilion, challenging the relationship between viewer, artwork, and space with sparse interventions. 

“With his reduced installation, Rockenschaub responds to the Belvedere 21’s unique architectural design. An almost meditative silence in the space is contrasted with the visual dynamism of the animations on the exhibition walls. The artist cryptically and peerlessly negotiates pop and high culture, the commonplace and art history, and our visual habits—all without sound, yet all the more visually striking,” says curator Axel Köhne.

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