National Museum of Contemporary Art Athens


30/09/2008 - 30/11/2008


Ulrich Rückriem

Shadows of the stone

Athens Conservatoire

30/09/2008 – 30/11/2008

Curated By: Tina Pandi

Ulrich Rückriem, one of the most important European sculptors, is well known for his monumental stone volumes. His drawing practice is a parallel activity, which was produced in dialogue and organically linked to his sculptural work. The exhibition Ulrich Rückriem. Shadows of the Stone presents, for the first time to the greek public, a large part of his drawings, which extend over a period of time from the mid-1990s until today. Around 100 drawings on transparent paper as well as others made directly on the floor and on the wall of the exhibition space are on display.

Ruckriem’s drawings, which are articulated in multiple layers of transparent paper and are considered by the artist as “sculptures”, form palimpsests with an ethereal and poetic character. For his large scale drawing The Shadows of the Stones, which is the schematic representation of the shadows of a monumental sculpture by the artist, he mentions that “It was my earnest wish – for once – to unburden myself from the heavy restrictions that accompany the realization of a work and all the consequences following from it.”

In the exhibition Ulrich Rückriem. Shadows of the Stone, the artist, through the use of a simple geometric vocabulary, which is based on a series of principal rules and allows a multiplicity of variations, presents a rich body of work that is at the same time static and dynamic, predetermined and unpredictable, hermetic and open, austere and playful, challenging the spectator’s perception and imagination.


Shadows of the stone. A sculptor’s drawings

If the lightness of the material of drawing seems to contrast with the solidity of sculpture, the drawing practice of German sculptor Ulrich Rückriem develops benefitting from and transcending the values of his sculptural work, thus becoming a fundamental component in his creative production.

The exhibition Ulrich Rückriem. Shadows of the Stone brings together for the first time a large part of Ulrich Rückriem’s drawings, which revolve a multitude of his directions of artistic exploration and extend over a period of time from the mid-1990s until today. Besides the seeming confrontation between the transparency and anti-monumentality of the medium of his drawings and the monolithic nature of his sculptures, the body of work on display here was produced parallel and organically linked to his sculpture. Nevertheless, in spite of their dialectic relation to his sculptural work, Rückriem’s drawings, of diverse scales, media and techniques, maintain their autonomy.

The artist envisions systematic methods for producing his drawings which are based on a series of principal rules and enable a multiplicity of variations, forming a body of work that is at the same time static and dynamic, predetermined and unpredictable, hermetic and open, austere and playful. For Rückriem, drawing becomes a conceptual tool for exploring fundamental principles which also inform his sculptural work, such as his focus on the process, the inherent qualities of the material, the question of space and the interaction of the individual elements to the work as a whole.

According to the 16th-century chronicler and artist Giorgio Vasari, drawing, “disegno”, as a primary medium of expression, enjoys the position of “the father of our three arts, architecture, sculpture and painting”, as it is distinguished by “proceeding from the intellect” (1). In spite of such pronouncements, drawing has characteristically been subservient to sculpture and characterized by an auxiliary and complementary role, mostly serving as a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional sculptural forms during the preparatory stages of their production.

Nevertheless, Rückriem’s drawings on display here, contrary to this traditional view of drawing, depart from their role as preparatory drawings for sculptures. This remark does not obviate the predominant importance of preparatory drawings in the artist’s practice, in which he documents the successive horizontal and vertical cuts by which the stone is segmented before being reassembled. Highlighting the prime role of preparatory drawings, Ulrich Wilmes notes that, “The initial point of each sculpture is the decision whether a block of stone is suitable for a sculpture which was recorded and elaborated in drawings as the sketch of an idea. Basically, drawing is most important for Rückriem’s reflections of an idea in order to consider and determine the structural sequence and the proportional division of the sculpture.” (2)

In post-modernist critical discussions of drawing, this art form was considered as synonymous by definition to its production process. With its experimental and “non-finito”, unfinished character and its intimate ties to the artist’s idea, drawing became a privileged vehicle of expression for conceptual art and process art in the 1960s and 1970s, as it seemed to be one of the most appropriate means for de-materializing the traditional work of art. […]

Some of the directions in Rückriem’s drawings on display here can be viewed in the context of the problematique of the drawing practice in the conceptual art and process art of the 1960s and 1970s. The seriality of his drawings, the proliferation of variations, based on a system of principles, the emphasis on production process, the temporal-spatial aspect, bring the artist close to Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings, Gordon Matta-Clark’s Cut drawings, Robert Morris’ Blind time drawings, Dorothea Rockburne’s Drawing Which Makes Itself.

The artist implements a methodology which comprises a series of self-devised rules able to result in a multiplicity of variations. By adopting a repertory of methods, such as the horizontal and vertical division of the surface into a predetermined number of sections, the implementation of the point-line-plane system (3), or the arrangement of structural elements on a grid according to a set of rules, Rückriem articulates a pure and simple visual vocabulary. The use of a strict geometric vocabulary in organizing the surface notwithstanding, the end result of a drawing is not revealed to the artist before all stages of production have been completed. The implementation of a specific system is merged with the unpredictability which results from the production process itself, e.g. from superimposing layers of transparent paper.

[…] In Ulrich Rückriem. Shadows of the Stone this substantial body of drawings recalls, through the strict methodology of its production, qualities of his sculptural work and is transformed into “shadows of the stone”, compositions whose poetry appeals not only to the perception, but also to the sensitivity of the viewer.

Tina Pandi
(extract of the curator`s text from the catalogue)

1. Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the painters, sculptors and architects, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996
See Karen-edis Barzman, “Perception, Knowledge, and the Theory of Disegno in Sixteenth-Century Florence” in From studio to studiolo. Florentine draftsmanship under the first Medici Grand Dukes, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, 1991
2. Ulrich Wilmes, “Frankfurt Daimlerstrasse”, Ulrich Rückriem, Frankfurt Daimlerstrasse, Köln: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walter König, 1989, p. 17
3. Detailed description of this idea on p. 23


Editor: Tina Pandi
Texts: Jochen Poetter, Ulrich Rückriem, Tina Pandi
96p., 22 X 16.5cm, Athens 2008
Bilingual (Greek / English)
With texts and reproductions of the works
ISBN 978-960-8349-27-8
Available for sale: price 10 euros


Photo: Ulrich Rückriem, The Shadows of the stones, 2008