Charlotte Posenenske and Peter Roehr
From October 2015 to August 2016, Chinati hosted a two-person exhibition of work by Charlotte Posenenske (1930–1985) and Peter Roehr (1944–1968). Curated by Chinati director Jenny Moore, it was the first major American museum presentation devoted to these artists.
Working in Germany in the mid to late 1960s, Posenenske and Roehr developed radical artistic practices utilizing new mediums, materials and processes. Although associated with the minimalist art movement in Germany and the United States, their work evolved in different artistic directions from their contemporaries, including Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin, artists in the collection at Chinati with whom Posenenske and Roehr exhibited in Germany in 1967. The exhibition reveals two artists ahead of their time, whose close friendship impacted and influenced their art.
The exhibition at Chinati features installations of Posenenske’s “Series B Reliefs” and “DW Series,” from the significant body of work Posenenske produced in the span of just two years, from 1966 to 1968. These works challenged conventional notions of painting and sculpture and charted new territory in performance based artistic practices.
Following ten years of work primarily in painting, Posenenske moved from two dimensions into three with wall-based works of industrially sprayed and colored aluminum that she titled “Sculptural Pictures.” As the artist herself described these works, “objects dissolve into space and space solidifies as objects. The pictures bring to mind impressions from our technical environment, painted sheet steel, headlight reflections, warning signs, street perspectives.” Posenenske developed from this work a series of relief sculptures, serially produced in unlimited quantities, taking the basic geometrical forms of canted, arched, convex, and concave lengths of sheet aluminum of consistent measurement. Available in four standard RAL colors—yellow, red, blue, black—the “Series B Reliefs” could be hung vertically or horizontally, in interior or exterior spaces, in various or repeated configurations and in unlimited numbers. With these works, Posenenske subverted the status and the commodity value of the unique, exclusive and costly object of art, to create a more social, accessible, and public work of art.
The D and DW series followed: large tubular constructions of galvanized steel and corrugated cardboard respectively. Comprised of manufactured component parts that could be assembled and reassembled in endless configurations by anyone (the artist was not required for fabrication, assemblage, or for installation), the work enabled viewers (or as Posenenske identified them, “consumers”) not only to visually engage with but also to participate in the manifestation of the sculpture and its installation by being given the freedom to assemble the parts as they wished and present the works in any configuration and in any environment.
In contrast to the durable or indeed precious material nature of other work from the time, Posenenske increasingly focused attention on commonplace materials like cardboard, with architectural connotations from the built environment. “I make series,” she wrote in 1968 in a statement for Art International, “because I do not want to make individual pieces for individuals, in order to have elements combinable within a system, in order to make something that is repeatable, objective, and because it is economical.”
“The objects are intended to have the objective character of industrial products,” she continued. “They are not intended to represent anything other than what they are.”
Peter Roehr produced over 600 works of art from the period of 1962–1967. His fascination with seriality and repetition took the form of montages, as Roehr called them, in a variety of mediums—type, text, photo, film, and sound—culled from mass media, commercial advertisements, and quotidian materials. Roehr created a complete system for serial repetition that was powerful for its ability to reveal overlooked aspects of the repeated image and therefore create something new.
“I believe that everything conceals within itself comprehensible qualities which we nevertheless seldom perceive,“ Roehr wrote. “When we perceive a thing several times in a row, whether in time or space—with no irregular space between them which would create ‘non-forms’ not necessarily caused by the shape of the materials used—we notice these characteristics.”
“The image is not happening anywhere in particular,” Roehr declared. “It is happening everywhere.”
The presentation at Chinati include montages from each area of Roehr’s artistic production.
Over the course of the yearlong exhibition, Posenenske’s “DW Series” installation was reassembled and reinstalled in workshops with the local school and community. Screenings of Peter Roehr’s film montages were also presented throughout the year.
Charlotte Posenenske was born in 1930 in Wiesbaden, Germany. She studied under Willi Baumeister in Stuttgart and worked in theater early on. She first exhibited her art in 1959 and was the focus of solo shows at Galerie Dorothea Loehr, Frankfurt and Konrad Fischer Galerie, Dusseldorf in 1966, 1967, and 1968. In 1967 she participated, along with Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, and many other artists, in the exhibition Serielle Formationen organized by Peter Roehr and Paul Maenz. She stopped making art in 1968 and became a sociologist. Posenenske died in 1985. Her work has since been included in numerous exhibitions internationally. Today, Posenenske’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; MMK, Frankfurt; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Peter Roehr was born in 1944 in Lauenburg, Germany. At a young age he moved with his mother to Frankfurt and enrolled in Werkkunstschule in Wiesbaden in 1962. By 1965 he was producing work across mediums. In May 1967 Roehr and Paul Maenz organized in the Studio Galerie of the Goethe University Frankfurt a groundbreaking exhibition entitled Serielle Formationen where works by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Charlotte Posenenske, and many other artists were shown. Roehr died in 1968. His work has since been included in numerous exhibitions internationally. Roehr’s work is in the collections of Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; MMK, Frankfurt; Städel Museum, Frankfurt; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart.