Tobias Rehberger review by Rebecca Newell
Tobias Rehberger has created a topsy-turvy world at PiIar Corrias. He has produced a new body of those slippery works that attract international acclaim and defy categorisation - those industrial monochrome sculptures and neon environment-cum-machines - and installed them at the Eastcastle Street gallery. All fluorescence, pattern and mechanism against the static, white walls, grey floor and open pipework of the gallery, the works transform the encounter in the art space.
The first meeting with this spongy, pulsating world is at once recognisable and abstract, expected and surprising. Ignoring the rather feeble work on paper that hangs in the window of the gallery (it’s a red herring) the first untitled work looms, large and blobby, on entry into the street level space. It is retro, kitsch, familiar. The rotund yellow body of the work - made from foam, fibreglass, polyester, epoxy, plumb and paint - is vaguely humanly proportioned as it lords over us atop a white cuboid plinth, expansive, sumptuous and strange. Then, bright studio lights, wall mounted as though exhibits, allow the work to cast an eloquent word-shadow on the floor. ‘SEX’ it reads; the sculptural configuration of fleshy crests is necessary for this monosyllabic statement, which in turn lends itself to the title of the exhibition, ‘Sex and Friends.’
Two more works in the upper gallery repeat this process of abstraction and familiarity, stasis and movement. Both untitled, their colourful, angular wooden structures encase motors, meaning that they, as well as the special lighting controls, gradually - imperceptibly - reposition to reveal something which is on first appearance hidden. In these cases, at regular but brief times of the day, the unstructured shadows cast by Rehberger’s assemblies clarify, merge and distil to form legible shapes, letters and words.
Down the black, spiral staircase and the work acts upon us in the same way. A bench in one corner gives an ideal view: ahead a monochromatic chequered sculpture disappears into the painting behind it. To the right, an assemblage of wood, aluminium, foil and motor, and a second neon structure seamlessly and invisibly adjust to tell us something through more letters and shadow patterns.
Thus Pilar Corrias has been transformed, its disinterested walls enlivened. It is the visual trickery - the shadow words, the disappearance in space - that unifies the works in their site specificity, says something about the here and now of visual experience and forms the most altering aspect of the exhibition. The exhibition encounter reveals a non-linear sentence: it needs a reader for completion, interpretation and meaning.
Rehberger’s practice poses questions that are answered in sensible dialogue with the viewer - what are the signifiers of purpose’ What is the role of the visitor’s durational exertion as well as dimensional space in the very conception of contemporary artworks’ The role of the artist-creator is inverted, disrupted, turned upside-down. This interrogation of perception, authorship and temporality remains tightly at the core of this innovative exhibition, and indeed, allows Rehberger and his work to deftly sidestep the very mechanisms of traditional criticism.