The latest exhibition at Lisabird Contemporary is literally a heavyweight: The sculptures of the Austrian artist Markus Redl (* 1977 Klosterneuburg), which are characterized particularly by their diversity in form - weigh several hundred kilos. The solo exhibition Vogelfrei (outlawed) is based on the artist’s intense involvement with the materials stone, bronze and paper throughout the past ten years.
The historical definition of sculpture has long lost its validity. The artistic practice of the 1960s and 70s established new formal styles, and expanded the concept of sculpture by its continuous development. The composition, the physicality of the shape, the determining rhythm, a limited choice of material - the modern sculpture appears to be liberated from these past restrictions. But to be free from restrictions allows in turn a conscious decision to make use of them. In the sculptures of Markus Redl marble, limestone and bronze become virtual markers of antiquity - and also his central theme. His works, liberated from the representative logic of the monument, are rather characterized by content, material and language instead of a set stylistic vocabulary. His repertoire ranges from baroque and figurative to strict in form to conceptual shapes; his very own grandmother serves as a motif as well as a mischievously grinning quotation by a Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, with a golden KHM bicycle helmet.
Redl proves that the use of classic materials must by no means lead to a dead end. Rather there are moments during which his studio morphs into some kind of laboratory. Stein 114 -117 (Stone 114 - 117) consists of four pieces, whose breakage lines are facing outside. It is evident that these pieces have once constituted a whole. But what happened here? The stone’s surface next to the rupture gives a first hint: It is altered, has dark areas reminding of scorch marks. In fact the broken stones are the result of a detonation, not caused by modern, technical explosives, but by the elements fire, air and water. Redl has carved a hole halfway through the original block, then he lit a fire on the opposite site. The fire blazed for several hours until the entire block was heated up and hot air had accumulated in the carved hole. When dousing the stone with cold water it finally blasted. Stein 114 -117 pools the elements and displays them in a simple, almost organic way. But not everything in his studio is that natural. Redl enhances his bronzes with aspects of painting by patinating or neutralizing their surfaces with chemicals, to add new depths to the shell through different chromaticity. The sculptures’ variety in formal styles originates in their content and as well as it is generated by it. Although also Redl’s drawings are free from personal expression, and determined by subject matter, they do however constitute a sharp contrast to his sculptures. By remaining reticent Redl has developed a vocabulary of scientific precision: Subtle, delicate and precise drawings on paper, with gold leaf and white gold as a third quality. Archetypical shapes, Arabian patterns and symbols like the Star of David are evoking questions regarding cultural identity and religious identification. In the work Gold Tusche Papier 03 (Gold Indian Ink Paper 03) the combination of different symbols forms a mandala, which is parted in its centre by the paper itself. The gaze of the recipient should be directed towards what connects rather than what separates. And thus the human being becomes the focus of Redl’s work: “The point is to appease and to befriend the sublime and the everyday, in order to lay a foundation for integrity.”
Text: Sabrina Möller