In the fall of 2007, Germany’s Bielefelder Kunstverein mounted a group show called “New Constructivism” that teased out the not-so-latent Constructivist tendencies of a new generation of abstract painters, sculptors, filmmakers and multimedia artists. Although those featured—Markus Amm, Simon Dybbroe Møller, Bernd Ribbeck and Florian Baudrexel, among others—make markedly disparate work, all employ a formal vocabulary that plumbs geometric abstraction and early 20th-century Constructivist forms (if not the politics that once went with them). The Munich-born, Berlin-based Baudrexel stood out, having contributed large-scale cardboard wall reliefs and jaunty abstract sculptures—their swooping, layered planes at once jazzy, menacing and urbane—that appeared to owe much to 1960s predecessors like Lee Bontecou, John Chamberlain and Robert Rauschenberg. All of which made Baudrexel’s recent exhibition, “Georgica,” a puzzle.
But for a few Easter-egg-hued walls and a row of bright collages, the spare show was a decidedly cool and muted turn for the artist. Three new sculptures, two small wall reliefs, and five diminutive collages evidenced little of the Constructivist ethos and the muscular ’60s-era bombast that has defined Baudrexel’s output until now. Moreover, the artist covered the gallery walls with a faux “Stucco Veneziano” in mottled shades of pale pink and greenish yellow. This flourish offered a saccharine contrast to the more reticent and formally predictable works (all 2009) on view. For example, the pink walls of the gallery’s first room bore two pieces: C-Moment, a 2-foot-tall white plaster sculpture, seated on a shelf, which suggests the improbable union of a Henry Moore sculpture and a miniature Zaha Hadid building; and the austere Spannungsbild #5 (Tension Picture #5), a cream-colored trapezoidal canvas that features an evocative seam—organic as a bodily orifice, industrial as a zipper—down the middle. Both works were echoed in the next room.
C-Moment’s techy, modernist curves were reprised in two slightly smaller plaster sculptures—Plotono and Heeli—while Spannungsbild #5 was mirrored exactly by Spannungsbild #9, which hung on the opposite side of the wall, the two suggesting some curious double-sided painting of “olde.”
Indeed, the delicacy of the installation matched the decidedly restrained works themselves. That is not to say the works lack presence, however. The cast-plaster sculptures possess a visual weight that belies their size, as if they were models for much larger projects to come. The two Spannungsbilder, meanwhile, convey a Post-Minimalist authority. If the tidy row of framed collages, the rhythmic geometric shapes of their components adeptly culled from newspapers and magazines, seem like an afterthought, perhaps it’s because the other works shown feel less like autonomous pieces than parts of a whole. As the pastel walls seemed to suggest, Baudrexel’s newest cues, at least here, are taken from the intersection of art and design, which, after all, is not so very far from Constructivism’s earliest aims.
Photo: Florian Baudrexel: C-Moment, 2009, plaster, MDF and spraypaint, 371⁄2 inches tall; at Lullin + Ferrari.