Friday, April 30, 2004

Essay: Roland Albert

ROLAND ALBERT (German, b. 1944)
By Wim Roefs

Roland Albert is a widely respected painter and sculptor in Germany. “Sticky Stuff” is his first solo show in the United States. The work at Lewis and Clark fits Albert’s often material-driven art that hovers between abstraction and figuration, between the natural and arranged worlds, between representing something and being something, and between material and psychological existence. For the work here, Albert used shellac to draw stick animals and a glue-and-soil mix to make quick, thick marks that suggest torsos. 

Albert is part of the artists’ exchange between Columbia and its German sister city of Kaiserslautern. As part of the exchange, he has participated in group exhibitions in Columbia, including the 2001-03 Art Garage Project. Albert studied with the famous Greek-American sculptor Kosta Alex in Paris in 1964. In 1970, he graduated from the prestigious Munich Academy of Fine Arts.

Albert molds paint and marks on surface, he says, rather than trying to depict things. He often blurs the boundaries between drawing and painting and painting and sculpting. Heavy application of dirt, plaster and stucco-like materials on his two-dimensional work can make it in effect three-dimensional. And sculpting to Albert is merely painting and drawing in space. 

Albert’s work overall fits European post-World War II contemporary traditions. He shares Joseph Beuys’ love for rough and unfinished materials. Like Art Informel artists such as Spaniard Antoni Tapies and fellow German Emil Schumacher, Albert considers not just forms and shapes important but also the tactility and physical quality of his materials. He shares Paul Klee’s playfulness and back-and-forth between figuration and abstraction. His spontaneous impulse and some imagery relate to Jean Dubuffet and CoBrA painters such as Dutchmen Karel Appel and Corneille. Combining the architectural with the natural in his sculpture links him to the 1960s German art group Zero. Among American influences on Albert’s work are Robert Motherwell and Adolph Gottlieb. 

“I can’t really analyze my own work very well,” Albert says. “I don’t work very systematically but instead mostly follow my spontaneous inner drive.”