14. April 2016

Klaus Flemming

„Large-scale reality produces large-scale unreality.“
Max Bill

A clearly defined cuboid: Upon entering the room, one’s eyes meet its front wall measuring almost three meters. It is necessary to walk four meters along its long side, and with a total height of three meters it achieves veritable real space dimensions, compelling one to look up.

One quickly comprehends the concrete, three-dimensional determinants. The horizontal and vertical edges are composed of aluminum sections, which also divide the lateral sides into panels—three on the long and two on the short sides. At the same time they carry the Plexiglas walls that hermetically seal the object and separate it off from the large exhibition space. And then there are the colored surfaces inside the object: extensive, monochrome shades of red cover the vertical and horizontal surfaces. The panes of Plexiglas—most of all, however, the interposing sandblast sheeting—blur their boundaries and translate what were originally the clear shades of red lacquer paint into an indifference that is difficult to define. These are—in a nutshell—the material-concrete circumstances of this installation, which was created specifically for this environment.

Even a brief description such as this one makes it clear that Rita Rohlfing has fallen back on ambivalent, highly contrasting visual elements: the extremely concrete construct based on dimension and calculation and the emotionally heightened color that is difficult to comprehend. It seems pointless to emphasize that both of these cause the other, that they become more intense in their reciprocity. and that naturally in the end they cannot even really be separated analytically.

However, two other determinants must be added that define the nature of the object without really being an incarnate part of it—the space and the light. Rohlfing’s installation – as described – consists, of course, of a clearly defined space, but it is not unrelated to its surroundings. It has been included in the visible (and known) system of coordinates of more comprehensive spatial situations that quite naturally influence the life of the observer. This becomes concretely and clearly visible in the exhibition space. It was not by chance that Rohlfing took up the rectangular shape of the high rear gallery space and applied it to her cuboid in such a way that the horizontal and vertical planes of both structures are parallel. The object is tuned like a lucid interior body, like a tectonic echo – its center of gravity naturally clearly downwards, which means that the object and the space share a part of the floor area. In between, positive-negative relationships logically arise; value-free relationships that are not bound to utilitarian thinking, but rather that one examines by walking through and around them in a search for the key to insight – a key that one already holds in one’s hand. In view of such purely sensual stocktaking, how pathetic the windows, door and stairway of the commercial building appear! How weighed down by history and origin the natural stone slabs of the floor! How touching the design of the necessities such as lamps, window catches and door handles! The abstract concept of „space“ does not become tangibly present until it is considered in relation to its pure accentuation. And this becomes possible through the removal of familiar perception models.

However, this describes only a part of the three-dimensional effect of this installation. It would not be much to know that there is a volume calculable in cubic meters behind these transparent Plexiglas walls – the light comes into play, which transports the color and which in its diverse refractions is the crystallizing medium of the invisible. Not only does it soften, blur and cause the red surfaces to vibrate, it weakens the lines and edges, removes concrete qualities, creates transitions, runs and nuances, reduces and disguises, but allows suspicion and anticipation to arise on the part of the observer. The color is dematerialized, but at the same time it is given incomprehensible volume. Distances dwindle, remove themselves from calculation, but remain perceptible by the senses. If it were not a paradox, one would have to speak of virtual concrete space, of devised three-dimensionality, of imagined, infinite depth – and at the same time the installation can be circled by taking only a few steps.

This dualism of rational calculation and emotional complexity is a constant feature of Rita Rohlfing’s work, in which the role of the concrete falls to the forms in their minimalist brevity and to the color and its partial dissolution of the imagination laden with associations. In their interaction, these two principles of form put a suppressed perceptual intensity into concrete terms which to date was unknown, which occupies space in a curiously strange familiarity, and which conveys a serene but at the same time powerful presence true to Fritz Schwegler’s dictum: „It is what it is when one knows exactly what it is but can no longer say what it is.“

in: RITA ROHLFING – ROTLICHTBEZIRK, Ausst.-Kat. Bonn, LVR-LandesMuseum Bonn, Bonn 2002, S. 24–31

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