"lititi (infinite + infinite)"
Solo exhibition at Arndt & Partner, Berlin
Ralf Ziervogel’s obsessively detailed drawings of human bodies exposed to apocalyptic cruelties are well known. In his words, it is a “game of systems” that acts as a continuous artistic test run. By choosing to depict his monochromatic drawings in extreme detail, the mapped out sceneries function as caricatures and pseudo-realist fantasies of violence spreading over the layers of paper as ornamental patterns. His so-called “declinations on the human body” allowed Ziervogel to develop a technique to test certain systems in order to push them towards an unknown territory.
For his solo show at Arndt & Partner, Young German Art, Ziervogel created a three-dimensional installation that continues the systematic approach of declinations. However, the theme of brutalities executed on human bodies seems to be abandoned or exposed to a process of abstraction. Juxtaposed out of reduced mathematical formulas or, in the case of his new work, A+B+Z (infinite+infinite) (2009), a simplified code of letters, each system completely dissolves into a legible constellation composed out of fragments.
Using non-hierarchical orders based on numbers, dice dots, letters and figures, Ziervogel’s art has some parallels with the conceptual art Sol LeWitt pioneered in the late 1960s, with its serial processes and formulae. However, Ziervogel deliberately undermines all the mystic auras these conceptual artists associated themselves with, and breaks the system with its own means. In infinite+infinite (2009), an installation that consists of over 60 drawings on a black background, a seemingly random succession of letters suddenly forms complete sentences like “If you read this, your second child will die of cancer.” These sentences are not intended to shock, but rather to expose the semantic import separate letters acquire when put together in words and sen-tences. The sentences target the associations inherent in particular constellations of letters and the thoughts they conjure up in our minds; the rational system of the alphabetical order thus serves to activate the irrational power of our superstitions.
Untitled (2009) also works with the “declination on the human body”. Black and white figures and skeletons are playfully combined in one big composition of black dots sprayed on paper. The gesture of spraying intervenes in the system of figures while also imposing an order upon them. The physical nature of this intervention is central to Ziervogel’s work, whose compressed inten-sity should always be understood as an act of physical labor. The figures he draws on paper confront us as forceful gestures, gestures that invariably lead us back to the body as our basis.
Ziervogel has appropriated the medium of drawing to channel his artistic explosions of pseudo systems and fantasies, which he elaborates and perfects to the tiniest detail. He plays on the visual appeal of his work to draw us in, only to seize on the connotative associations that populate our thoughts. At first glance, his drawings seem familiar and pleasingly aesthetic. In formal terms, their appeal is heightened by the focus on black and white contrasts. But as a closer look quickly tells us this is nothing more than an elegantly designed trap.
The title of the exhibition bears special mention. By calling his exhibition Young German Art, Ziervogel takes aim at the clichés that have attached themselves to discussions on contemporary art. Similar to the YBAs of the 1990s (Young British Artists), the term Young German Art has come to stand for the institutionalization of an art form that the two adjectives Young and German supposedly suffice to define.
Born in 1975 in Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany, Ralf Ziervogel lives and works in Berlin. In addi-tion to solo shows at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas (2007), the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2008) and galleries in Germany, Austria, Israel and the United States, his work has been shown at many national and international group exhibitions including panic room, Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art, Athens (2006), the 52nd Venice Biennial (2007) and Made in Germany, Sprengel Museum, Kunstverein Hannover and the Hanover kestnergesellschaft (2007). His most recent solo exhibition was at the Kunstverein Ulm.