Bernd Ribbeck An Exceptional Contemporary Geometric Harmonist New Exhibition

Bernd Ribbeck’s second solo exhibition at  Alison Jacques Gallery is also the first presentation of his work since he was selected for Made in Germany Zwei: Internationale Kunst in Deutschland, shown over three venues across Hannover this summer. This new body of paintings on MDF sees acrylic, permanent marker pen and varnish methodically built up and ground down, systematically layered then scratched back, and Ribbeck’s interpretations of the spiritual and the profane grappling within small rectangular arenas of gestural energy and self-restraint.

These unconventional studio techniques are infused by Ribbeck’s abiding fascination with those who deliberately operated at the fringes of art history and social norms. While he has always looked to the Swedish painter and occultist Hilma Af Klimt (1882-1944) to find structure in the spiritual, Ribbeck has recently been drawn to the sense of detachment from the everyday in the works of Swiss Art Brut artist and schizophrenic Aloíse Corbaz (1886-1964), who claimed to feel dead in ordinary life but alive in her fantasy drawings. Conversely, the clerical pretentions and failings of the German ‘Organic Architects’ Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) and Dominikus Böhm (1880-1955) and their peculiar designs for modernist-rationalist church interiors are of interest to Ribbeck precisely because their ambition always seemed compromised by their piety and traditional impulses. If Ribbeck’s paintings can be experienced as interiors of their own, they are places without narrative containing fictions without religion, or as the artist puts it, “naked icons of my era”.

While he is often rightly cited as an exceptional contemporary geometric harmonist, Ribbeck has never been afraid to unearth the murkiness of personal experience, and his new paintings in particular are enriched by the candour of disharmony. His self-defacing and scarring of the precise linear rationality of his mandala-like forms means Ribbeck’s works always hold true to the substance, tension and effort from which they have been wrought. For all his new paintings’ surprising luminosity and cadence, Bernd Ribbeck has ensured there’s a materiality to his metaphysics.

Born in Cologne in 1974, Bernd Ribbeck studied at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf, Akademie der bilenden Künste, Munich and Hochschule de Künste, Berlin, and lives and works in Berlin. In 2012 Ribbeck has been Artist in Residence at 21er Haus, Belvedere, Vienna, and had a solo presentation at Galerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich. His museum shows include Made in Germany Zwei: Internationale Kunst in Deutschland, Sprengel Museum Hannover, the Kestnergesellschaft Hannover and the Kunstverein Hannover, Status Berlin, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, the Galerie für Gegenwartskuns, Bremen, Germany (all 2012); the Kunstverein Kreis Gütersloh, Germany, Lismore Castle Arts, Lismore, Ireland (both 2011); the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2010); The Long Dark, International 3, Manchester, the Oldenburger Kunstverein, Germany (both 2009); and Manifesta, Trentino, Italy (2008). Public collections of Ribbeck’s work include MoMA, New York, and K21: Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf.


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