Square tube series D (sheet steel)
28 Oct 1930 - 01 Oct 1985
In spite of her relatively brief period of activity as an artist (1959-1968), Charlotte Posenenske is today recognised as a key figure in 1960s minimal and conceptual art. She made unique and groundbreaking contributions to the field by creating sculptural works that used the visual language and materials of minimalism but which were imbued with social, participatory and performative dimensions. Deeply influenced by philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Posenenske sought to create art that had the potential to make a constructive contribution to society. After a decade of innovative artistic experimentation, in February 1968 she published a statement, concluding that “art is unable to contribute to the resolution of urgent social problems” and subsequently turned from art to sociology working in close collaboration with labour unions.
This piece belongs to Posenenske’s most renowned body of work, her 'Vierkantrohre (square tube)' sculptures which she first produced in 1967. Comprised of 6 modular elements made from galvanised sheet steel, the 'Vierkantrohre' were conceived as a form of mass produced sculpture whose form would be determined by the person installing the work. It was Posenenske’s idea that the work can be reproduced indefinitely and transformed at will so as to offer a radical critique of the concept of authorship and to undermine the systems through which value is attributed by the art market. As she outlined in her 1968 statement:
"The things I make are variable, as simple as possible, reproducible. They are components of a space, since they are like building elements, they can always be rearranged into new combinations or positions, thus, they alter the space. I leave this alteration to the consumer who thereby again and anew participates in the creation. The simplicity of basic geometric forms is beautiful and suited to the demonstration of the principles of rationalized modifications. I make series because I do not want to make single pieces for individuals, in order to have elements combinable within a system, in order to make something which is repeatable, objective, and because it is economical. The series can be prototypes for mass production".
Charlotte Posenenske, “Statement” [Manifesto], Art International no. 5 (May 1968).
During her lifetime, Posenenske’s work was exhibited alongside the major American minimalist artists (such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre) with whom she shared an interest in seriality and industrial materials. A key point of difference, however, was the fact that her sculptures not only used the techniques of industrial fabrication, they also took the form of industrially fabricated products. Depending on the manner in which they are installed, the 'Vierkantrohre' can precisely match the appearance of industrial ducting. There is, in this sense, an illustionistic aspect to the work which runs counter to the conventional narrative of minimal art.
These elements reprise a configuration of three sculptures installed by the artist at Frankfurt airport in 1967. They were produced by the artist’s estate in a Frankfurt factory according to the artist's specifications.
Vierkantrohre Serie D
hot-dip galvanised sheet steel, screws, 13 elements
display dimensions variable :
a - Rectangular tube 1, 50 x 27 x 92 cm
b - Rectangular tube 2, 50 x 27 x 92 cm
c - Corner piece 1, 50 x 83 x 35 cm
d - Corner piece 2, 50 x 83 x 35 cm
e - Square tube 1, 50 x 92 x 50 cm
f - Square tube 2, 50 x 92 x 50 cm
g - Square tube 3, 50 x 92 x 50 cm
h - Cube tube 1, 50 x 46 x 50 cm
i - Cube tube 2, 50 x 46 x 50 cm
j - Cube tube 3, 50 x 46 x 50 cm
k - Transition piece 1, 50 x 23 x 50 cm
l - Transition piece 2, 50 x 23 x 50 cm
m - T-element, 50 x 66 x 58 cm
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased with funds provided by the Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund and Atelier 2019
© Estate of Charlotte Posenenske. Courtesy Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin.
Shown in 1 exhibition
Some mysterious process, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Jun 2020–13 Sep 2020