Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Essay: Roland Albert

Paar, 2003
Wood, sand, glue
5 ½ x 19 ¼ x 3 ½ in.
$ 650

By Wim Roefs

Roland 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.

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, which included Otto Piene and Günther Uecker. Zero was part of a larger network of European artists, including the Dutch Nul Groep with Jan Schoonhoven and Armando, Lucio Fontana in Italy, Jean Tinguely and Arman in France and Tapies again. These artists practiced an art that started from scratch, historically, art historically, conceptually and often practically. In the wake of the human disaster that was Fascism and World War II, the artists sought a new beginning, independent of historical and art historical traditions. This included the incorporation of and a focus on non-traditional materials with an often minimalist, geometric or gestural, poetic and metaphysical approach that led to novel aesthetic results. 

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. 
“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.” 

That spontaneous drive leads to the use of not just paint, canvas, bronze and other established media but whatever materials may cross Albert’s path. He draws with shellac or with a combination of glue and sand, including the reddish sand of the Kaiserslautern region. He sculpts with wood and corrugated cardboard. The surfaces of the sculptures in the current show are covered with a mix of glue and sand. 

“Wood typically simply provides the armature to create a certain shape,” Albert says. “It’s often not that important for the look of the work. In addition to glue and sand, I use, for instance, paper and clothe to cover the wood.”

“My objects are based on everyday phenomena. The chair refers to human anatomy, character and temperament. The ladders are symbolic for ascending and descending, coming and going. Architecture represents living and mystique. In exploring the elements, I don’t shoot for representation but for new creations.” 

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