Gallery owner Sonja Roesch’s latest exhibition, Investigating White, a series of paintings by the Raimund Girke, examines the late artist’s influence during post–World War II America.
The time period’s movement dealt heavily with starting over, stripping things down to a clean slate and searching for art and styles. While Girke wasn’t the only leading voice in the era, he was alone in his art. Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker, members of the Zero Group—an inner circle of contemporary artists—were, as Roesch said, all the same age and friends, and artistically aligned, but Girke’s focus set him apart. He was a concept painter.
“His whole life was dedicated to investigating the color white,” Roesch said, “Pure painting and nothing else…”
Roesch displays 18 of Girke’s paintings—accentuated by the artist’s fixation with clean palates and stripped-down canvases—produced throughout his lifetime. One of the pieces, “Leicht and Fluchtig,” struck a chord with the gallery owner.
“Leicht means light…like ‘weight’ light, not ‘light bulb,’ and Fluchtig I think…the passing…like fleeting, running away,” explained Roesch.
The piece shows the complexity and movement that the color—or non-color—white can have. There are brown and blue hues and the strokes, at rough angles, are evocative. The edges are dark, where the white strokes begin or end.
“I don’t know if he ever understood white, if he was satisfied with his work,” Roesch said.
Girke’s style wasn’t consistent, Roesch argues. While some are controlled pieces, with concise strokes and layering, others are haphazard. Girke looked at white with darkness and with light, with chaos and structure.
“You have to have this experience,” said Roesch, “Look at the paintings and have this dialogue.”
Roesch’s familiarity with the work and the space prompted the “rhythm and the cleanness, ” so that the overall collection is coherent. There’s balance between the larger and smaller pieces as well as balance between the forms—the perfect balance to talk to each piece as well as the collection.
“It’s not fashion, it goes deeper,” Roesch said. “When it’s appreciated over generations, that’s timeless.”
Thru May 28. 2309 Caroline St. 713-659-5424. gallerysonjaroesch.com