ROBERT MANGOLD, Column Paintings 2005.
For many years, the oeuvre of Robert Mangold has been characterized and structured by the way it unfolds in coherent and contingent groups of works. These develop an entelechy – a force pushing toward self-fulfillment – and at some point, according to the determinations of the artist, the possibilities are exhausted and the corresponding cycle of paintings is completed and irrevocably concluded.
Remarkably, new ideas, findings and inventions accumulate during the preoccupation with a pictorial theme that links and orchestrates the elements of the image and the making of images in a circular observance of rules. The caesuras are distinctly apparent in each case yet it is not a matter of radical breaches and reorientations but rather of a creative expansion and enrichment of the overall body of works.
The year 2002 saw the production of the first 'Column Paintings'. The allusion to a design element used in architecture makes explicit that these paintings are laid out with a tall and narrow format. Nevertheless, the wall surface is occupied in all its dimensions and the reference to the floor is clear and unambiguous. With authority and sovereignty, Robert Mangold sets forth a pictorial form in its own right whose role and presence is highly visible in tradition and in modernity. Associations arise, reminders of quite different paintings from the fund of the history of art and painting. Often it was the scarcely expressed upright or reclining human form that fused happenings in the image and the picture format to make such a naturally conditioned whole. But the pictorial function in distinct connection with architecture also acts to facilitate this unusual picture type, entailing a rejection of the painting as a window to the world. The expanded upright format, and incidentally the expanded oblong format as well, accentuate the painting as an object. Mangold uses this special format as a conscious formal definition and prerequisite. It conditions and outlines all further decisions. The pictorial object, in the sense construed by Edmund Husserl, forms a unity with the painting as an object. The painting represents nothing that is absent; it immobilizes the presence of a unity. Accordingly the painter Robert Mangold treats and handles the surface of the stretched canvas. The hand of the painter recedes as he applies the thinned paint in layers with a paint roller. By contrast, the curved line formations are drawn directly with the hand and without any other aids, oriented to the visible underlying grid of lines and to the edges of the painting. The curves are set with lines of varying strength and, as in the paintings from the past years, the unusual double line is used, resembling a narrow plane. Lengthwise, the tensioned arches flow through the overstreched upright format. In the deliberate process of creation, the work alternates with line and color, producing a transparent pictorial space. Mangold's mastery as a colorist is manifested in the way he is able to utilize color and colorfulness and their shading. Color is light and material, translucent and radiant with expanses of pure, light-toned color and continues to hold light with the fine, fractured to dark tones.
In a time of continual, rapid consumption of images, Robert Mangold adheres to the notion that it is the ambition and task of the artist to create valid paintings. A phenomenon of a mass society, image consumption accentuates the dominance of the momentary, given over in the same breath to transience. Without resorting to any sort of sentimental pathos, the work of Robert Mangold reminds us that contradiction is possible, with large, calm paintings.
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Heinz Liesbrock First published by Sieveking Verlag, München