BY Grit Weber in Reviews | 23 MAY 12
Featured in
Issue 5

Reinhard Mucha

Galerie Bärbel Grässlin

BY Grit Weber in Reviews | 23 MAY 12

Reinhard Mucha, FRANKFURTER BLOCK, 2012, Group of works

This exhibition was Reinhard Mucha’s first in three years; its title – Schaffnerlos. Werke ohne Arbeiten 1981–2012 (No Conductor. Works Without Works, 1981-2012) – pointed to the show’s recurring transportation metaphors, extending to an open definition of the art work.

What this combination implied was best illustrated by FRANKFURTER BLOCK (Frankfurter Block, 2012), a group of four works with a 30-year history. The title changes with each exhibition of the work; consider Ohne Titel (‘Kopf im Sand’ – Kunsthalle Bielefeld – Entstanden anlässlich der Ausstellung: ‘Ars Viva – Skulpturen und Installationen von Preisträgern des Kulturkreises im Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie e.V.’ – 1981), [2012] (1981) – Untitled (‘Head in the Sand’ – Kunsthalle Bielefeld – made for the exhibition ‘Ars Viva: sculptures and installations by prizewinners selected by the Cultural Committee of the Federation of German Industry’ – 1981). For the prize exhibition cited in the title, Mucha filled a vitrine with materials from a coupon campaign which he had instigated himself. For a subsequent show at Kölnischer Kunstverein in 1982, he placed copies of the coupons filled out with his name and address, as well as the promotional material received in response to this mass request (product catalogues and company brochures) in a number of vitrines and lined them up like the carriages of a freight train.

As part of FRANKFURTER BLOCK, a new incarnation of this vitrine-train stood on wooden footstools. Sitting under the vitrines, bulky old monitors showed animated documentary photographs from previous exhibitions of this ensemble, accompanied by the rise and fall of a rolling and clattering soundtrack. In the early 1980s, when data protection and the evils of the national census were being hotly debated in Germany, Mucha opted for a lack of privacy and flooded corporate mailing lists with his name and address. For years, he received friendly junk mail, with the last letter arriving in 1997.

It would be wrong to see FRANKFURTER BLOCK as a naive artist’s critique of capitalism’s demand-driven insanity, although that’s one obvious reading. Instead, Mucha links the peculiarity of various systems: consumerism and marketing enter into an alliance as his works enter the museum, while economies of abundance collide with economies of scarcity.

There’s a comic edge to the result. ‘Museums today are like railway stations. In, out …’

says Mucha, ‘both are places of placelessness’. The quiet, often aura-producing presentation of art works in exhibition spaces is always just a snapshot. In the background, the next exhibition has already been planned, loans are being organized with military precision, and works, sent off on their travels.

[Capriccio] – Wie der tote Hase mit den Bildern verkehrt (Capriccio – How the dead hare consorts with the pictures, 2012) – the only new work in FRANKFURTER BLOCK – can be easily identified as a homage to Joseph Beuys’s The Pack (1969), except that here the sledges are replaced with the upturned trolleys used in museums to move art works.

Fittingly, the felt blankets are from the art transportation company Hasenkamp. Although this work is autonomous, Mucha placed it so close to his vitrine train that the viewer is invited to draw associations with a locomotive. The two works opened up to each other and joined to form a sort of total installation. The other parts of the ensemble, hung on the wall, were similarly interlocked: the 99 drawings Kopf im Sand [2012] (Head in the Sand [2012]) (1981) and the framed correspondence of Der Stahlbaron – Auszüge aus dem großen Kalender (The Steel Baron – Excerpts from the Large Calendar, 1989).

The exhibition also included Der kluge Knecht (Ohne Titel – Staatliche Kunst­akademie – Düsseldorf, 1981) (The Clever Servant – Untitled – State Art Academy – Dusseldorf 1981, 2002), which features copies of Mucha’s notarized masterclass graduation certificate in a series of frames, and a number of smaller wall objects from recent years like Hilden (2008), Kalkum (2004) and Tholey (2010), all of which possess Mucha’s typical mixture of conceptual gravity, material presence and a certain capricious lightness. The spectrum of works on show here, although in a gallery, is more in the vein of what one would expect to see in a museum.

Translated by Nicholas Grindell