When everything goes well, we make out of our universe, something that should be erratic and bent, a simple canvas. One with corners and paints on it. And we look at it and say: “Ah” 1
The solitary wish, to set the incomprehensibility of space and the universe in the planetary system of a painting is, has been for some time, for the artist Rita Rohlfing not enough. After having driven the values of the classical panel motifs in her paintings to their boundaries, in that her compositions through breaking, bending and successive bowing of the canvas surface extend into the moldable space, were the possibilities of the canvas painting so to speak gave up. Consequently, she appears compelled in her newest work to commit herself to this tendency toward departing from the restrictions of the canvas and panel motifs forever and to set her painting directly in the room.
One of her latest works within this context is an asymmetric stainless steel hexagon without title from the year 1998, that with its reflective surface and its manifold angles brings about a direct connection to the ambient space. The work is placed directly on the floor without pedestal. The outer mass of 90 x 120, 120 x 78 and 92 x 33 cm demonstrate that the physique does not fit to any systematic scheme, which is familiar to us from contemporary directions in space-objects. This stainless steel object, with its slants and bends, takes on the form of a space-object, that for all things consummates in the awareness, that through different perspectives, the object always takes on a somewhat different distorted perception, that does not allow itself to be simply reckon with, like for example a familiar math book. However, the work is to last detail constructive, of easy to grasp size and conveys to us in within the dimensional volume of a good cubic meter the feeling of clarity and familiarity hand in hand. This rectangular parallelepiped is not completely closed on all sides. As if through an oversight, a corner on one side springs minimally open exposing the inside of the object and reveals to us at the same time that this object is made out of a half centimeter stainless steel sheet. The springing open of this cube, which accentuates its connection to the room and that the object appears openable, suggests less a large mass than a room-folding.
The flat surface of the stainless steel object reflects the coloring and liveliness of the rooms ambience, without ever working like a mirror. The reflection is always blurry and the colors defused, so that the observer remains outside and can only move around the space of the sculpture in his thoughts. The slit locks the stride, as it were, to step inside in order to experience the inner space, that through the sealing of the sculpture surface is locked in. Indirectly two sides of a situation are presented here, where in Rita Rohlfing ascribes to the outer qualities of her sculpture as well as to the inner the equal significance. The “locked in”, so to say, breaks out, so that the intellectual union between inner and outer can occur. Rita Rohlfing swings the observer to confront this contradiction for themselves, while the room-folding, which is intended in this sculpture, can not be discomposed. The artist succeeds in creating inner and outer surfaces which re – structure the room contextually as well factually. Rohlfings stainless steel sculpture is a object, whose function is undetermined and rejects categorizing. Because of that, she reaches a degree of abstraction, that stands at once in contradiction with the concrete form of the object which we walk around, check the measurements and can experience.
With this last work with stainless steel Rita Rohlfing refrained completely from using color. This is different with her large sculpture “69 Degrees”, which is constructed from a combination of aluminum and a red shaped MDF – board. Also this sculpture takes on a direct relationship to the room in which it is placed. A standing, bowed, hand sanded aluminum sheet and a red painted, equally massive, equally bowed MDF board join along one edge, then part from each other at a 69 degree angle creating a circa 15 cm opening, which allows for the scrutiny of the inner space. The bowed MDF board is painted with a homogeneous red lacquer in such a way that absolutely no artistic signature can be recognized. The artist has, unlike her other work, consciously engaged the technical precision required to achieve an as elementary appearance as possible. With the many coats of lacquer, the bowed surface is even and glossy so that when one steps inside this bowed-wedge space, one feels oneself immediately pulled in by this red and cannot let go, one cannot concentrate on any color particle or on any other element.
One experiences this ethereal color-expanse also in her latest work in which a Plexiglas sheet closes a standing folded metal sheet, enveloping a red mist. This inner room is experienced as a closed space and therefore in a conscience sense as an illusion, whose reality for us is never certain. Especially the two opposing metal surfaces of the sculpture, that because of their abraded structure boast an aesthetic quality and the “impenetrable” space behind the Plexiglas sheet which draws the visual person, directs their attention through the surface into the core, the essence, into the imagination. This material ambiguity through the new evaluation of the color red in this work from Rita Rohlfing is however emphasized. The metal sheet is painted red on the inside, while the outer surface is presented in its natural tone. But the red is not seen as paint, but instead emanates as a tinted ether through the milky Plexiglas sheet. One could almost reflect on Naum Gabo’s postulate in the “Realism Manifesto”, in that he writes: Color is determinant and has nothing to do with the inner being of the thing. We insure, that is the tone is a substance, hence that it’s a light absorbing material body is its singular artistic quality.”
This is valid insofar as color here is a component of space and not any longer presented as a condition or characteristic of an object. The space gains through the work of Rita Rohlfing a disembodied quality, that from the inner space of the object into the observers space wanders.
1 Ulrike Schröder im Kunstblatt Nr. 19, R.o.T., Siegendorf, Österreich 1997
in: RITA ROHLFING, Ausst.-Kat. Bergisch Gladbach, Städtische Galerie Villa Zanders und Mühlheim an der Ruhr, Kunstmuseum in der Alten Post, Bergisch Gladbach/Mülheim an der Ruhr 1999, S. 5–7