Claus Richter | Regen
07 September to 19 October 2013
Claus Richter’s third solo exhibition at Clages is titled “Rain”.
But the expected images of rain have been left out. Instead the gallery is full of shelves brimming with toys, each individually cut from wood and arranged in tidy rows.
To Claus Richter, rain stands for the beginning of his artistic career, maybe even the beginning of art itself. Unless one decides to brave the rain, like the band on the invitation card, one withdraws to a sheltered place and looks for ways to pass the time until it stops. The longer it rains, the more obvious the need to keep oneself occupied. It is here, protected by dry shelter, that the world of storytelling, and the game of invention eventually begins. The first human drawings were found in caves – for all we know, it could have been raining then, too.
With “Rain”, Claus Richter returns to a point in the process that continues to have a profound influence on his work today. Tinkering and handicrafts. Just as self-help books have often appeared in Richter’s work, books form the basis of this exhibition as well. Richter spent weeks collecting countless “rainy day craft books” from the 19th century onwards. Books like “What to do on a rainy day”, “The Rainy Day Playbook” or “Hundreds of things to do on a rainy day” provide simple instructions for crafting figures, games, houses, animal figures, models, masks, simple machines and grotesque tricks and gags. In an almost two-week tour de force, Richter sealed himself off behind closed doors and made the wooden objects from around 70 templates chosen from these books – until six shelves were filled. And so we find, for example, rocking horses from 1916 on the gallery walls, piranha fishes from 1976 and rockets from 1952. Almost a century of “rain crafts” are now tightly packed in the open shelves. As absurd as the connection to these handicrafts may seem at first, Richter’s shelves allude to Flemish still lifes from the 17th century. At that time, the flourishing genre of still life painting developed a sub-category in which perishable objects were not as usualy painted lying on tables or pieces of fabric, but in shelves. Richter consciously borrows this arrangement, and thereby captures his “secret” time spent manically absorbed in crafts projects in the form of a wooden still life and documents of a time passed that could theoretically go on forever. The seventh rainy day is a horizontal relief with the leftover scraps and a pair of scissors with a paper kite that appears frozen in mid-flight.
A work made with foil sheeting transforms the gallery storefront into a picturesque round window based on the window from Disney’s film version of “Pinnochio”, the same window Gepetto the woodcutter sits behind as he carves his figures. Like “Santa Claus”, anther figure much revered by Claus Richter (note the similarity in names) he is deeply engrossed in work, a slightly austistic, somewhat crazy loner, a hobbyist in his study.
And so Santa Claus in his “workshop” at the North Pole, Gepetto whittling in his shop and the child making crafts on the carpet at home are archetypes for Richter’s own search for lost time, which – for all its color – has a hint of melancholy as well. This is likewise true of the “shop sign” made especially for the exhibition, where a similar craftsman appears on a sign installed on the gallery façade. At once cheerful and lonely, free and instructed, he tinkers away in his rain-protected sanctuary, always creating his new models of ideal inner worlds as long as it’s raining outside and the others have no time.
Special thanks to Sven Stasik, Helga Szentpetery, the Imhoff Foundation Cologne, Jutta Rohde and Moritz Wesseler for their help and support.