in context of room, building and city

>Hours and Hours of Inactivity 2017

pictures and wall installations, bubble picture 1992/2017, foam painting 1991/2017, air picture, 1992/2017, thermal painting 2016, tondo of holes 2017, color scale 1994, n.b.k., with B. Allamoda, D. Artus, O. Balema, F. Balthaus, M Danz, C. Sun Kim, W. von Kries, S. Schäfer, R. Schramm, H. Sill, S.-T. Trenka-Dalton, March 4th to April 30th 2017, Fotos Friedhelm Hoffmann

Fritz Balthaus: Hours and Hours of Inactivity 2017

For over thirty years now, Fritz Balthaus has been exploring the systems within which art emerges with the objects and installations he creates, both on a conceptual and on a formal plane. In his very early works, he already parodied mechanisms of value creation: Junggesellenmakkaroni (Bachelor’s Macaroni, 1987), for example, alluded to the legend of the artist who, withdrawn from society and malnourished, conjures masterpieces inscribed with enlightenment. Concretely speaking, this work questions the exaggerated art-historical importance of Duchamp’s oeuvre, in which the “bachelor” repeatedly appears as a philosophical figure. For Fahrradschlauch (Bike Inner Tube, 1987) Balthaus uses just such an inner tube as a sculpture that recalls the abstract, curved works of Hans Arp. But the tube, placed on a concrete pedestal, is under too much pressure, so that it gradually changes its form and finally, after a short period of time, bursts at its weakest point. Approaches critical of institutions and/or an ironic approach to art’s parameters also shape Balthaus’ later works. His untitled “foam pictures” (1991) are shaped by their explicit temporality and only remain intact with the constant efforts of overseers that have to water and soap the materials spread out on the frame, cloths and rectangles of suede, to make sure that foam is actually visible. Working with everyday objects, with automation, constant change and chance, contradicts the auratic sacralization of works created “by the artist’s own hand” in the White Cube, the exhibition space. Balthaus explores its significance in works that take the material conditions as their point of departure. Since 1994, the artist has been creating site-specific installations that focus on the light sources of the respective site of presentation. Using mirrors and cardboard placed in front of the light sources, he creates rectangular shadows and reflections—pictures—on the walls that primarily refer to their logic of emergence but also the conditions of vision. Balthaus also demonstrates the practical influence of the context on the appearance and perception of artistic works in VEB VAM (2003), a wooden sculpture that recreates the exact maximum dimensions of the elevator and the corridors that form the entrance to the Albertinum in Dresden, thus forming the largest possible object in the art space. But Balthaus is not only interested in the “invisible” physical requirements that “frame” art, as the artist has shown again and again with works like KAT./AUSST. (CAT./EXH.), his 1994 edition for Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, which when rolled out forms a colorful print control strip on the wall. The white wall becomes a white sheet of paper on which the text emerges. In turn, the artist also focuses on the medium of the catalogue or book as a possible exhibition space, as he did in 2007 with a manipulated edition of a German translation of Brian O’Doherty’s book Inside the White Cube (In der weißen Zelle). In Balthaus the Zelle or cube becomes a Zeile, or line, thus referring to the function of theoretical texts or reviews and their distribution in publications for viewing and evaluating art.


Michaela Richter


from: Hours and Hours of Inactivity, Editor Marius Babias, Berlin: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Köln: Buchhandlung Walther König (n.b.k. Berlin, Bd. 9)