This stone sculpture is a model summary of Rückriem’s language, with its peculiar processes of cutting and recoupling the parts. The three upper parts are dissected vertically with a line of extraordinary geometrical precision, whilst the horizontal cut is generated by perforations that provide the counterpoint to the “roughness”. The work is placed directly on the floor, dispensing with the pedestal in the characteristic manner of contemporary sculpture. The irregularities of the rock and the zigzag cracks introduce an almost pictorial effect on this wall where the experience of weight has been questioned by the subtlety of the compartmentalisation of the material and, most of all, by the exercise in reconstruction, which has something puzzle-like about it. Rückriem, who has felt the monumental challenge of quarries, speaks, almost in a metonymy, about the process of extracting the mineral and submitting nature to the rules of art, in an adjustment that he describes as “reciprocal marking out of the unit”. He has constructed many steles, though always removed from their funerary connotations, and in this work he forces the spectator to adopt a behaviour, which is to not walk around the monolith: the eye takes in a singularly harsh frontal presence, where there is no incident of any kind. Pier Luigi Tazzi has observed that at the point where Minimalism sinks into Puritanism, tending towards the absolute, Rückriem is “both Catholic and idealistic, anchored in the relativity of experience”. Indeed, although in his works there is a sequential arrangement or even an evocation of the grid, which is one of the great emblems of modernity, his attitude is slightly distanced from the obsessive nominalism of Minimalism. He is interested in the shift between culture—with its deployment of technology—and nature, and it is with that in mind that, for example, he introduces stones amidst the push and whirl of the city, which reveal its anomaly. Sometimes the cut of the stones that fascinate him is related to the architecture of the surroundings, and it introduces a note into the work, which has a kind of serene classicism about it. He is seeking a balance between material and process, form, measure and place. Among his favourite compositions are the isolated stele, the horizontal stone shape, and the natural wedge shape or, as in this work, a bark integrated into a wall like a relief. The play of polished and rough, the scale and study of places, when our world is almost an immense non-place (to use Smithson’s term recycled by the ethnologist Marc Augé) are of great concern to Rückriem, who says that he tends towards clarity because he himself is chaotic: “I have to do something that connects me with something calmer and quieter. That is the psychological key I have before me. If I were calmer, I am sure I would do paintings in the style of Polke”. As José Lebrero Stals has rightly pointed out, this sculptor is concerned with attaining a unifying gestalt, and he does so by appealing to a distant strangeness as the only possible rule for a non-convulsive vision that tries to create order, but without giving up the joy of sensuality. It is as if the stones he finds in the quarries, like outsized ready-mades, freed us from a drift towards metaphor or an impulse to symbolism and referred us back to elemental gestures: drawing, carving, separating, unifying. The “silent” and perhaps dramatic presence of Rückriem’s steles gives us a space whose ribbing is the will to unity, that geometry which, like this work in blue granite, keeps together what was separated by force in the creative process.
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