The Minimal = More exhibition held at the Gemeentemuseum earlier this year included a 2002 work entitled Coded Language, Hardliner by German artist Frank Gerritz (b. Hamburg, 1964). Gerritz is a member of a younger generation of artists who have adopted the Minimal Art philosophy and taken it further. Coded Language, Hardliner is part of a series of Minimalist drawings made with black paintstick on anodised aluminium sheets. Gerritz has been working on this series for more than a decade. He has now designed an installation for the Projects Gallery at the Gemeentemuseum using a selection of his works to enter into a dialogue with the marvellous Berlage architecture of this outstanding exhibition space.
Frank Gerritz’s imposing works occupy a grey area somewhere between sculpture and painting. Like his older Minimal Art colleague Richard Serra, he concentrates primarily on drawing but sees himself as a sculptor. Sculptural aspects like matter and space therefore play a major role in his work. The thick, black paint he applies to the aluminium sheets looks both velvety and crude and industrial. Thanks to an ingenious hanging system, the sheets appear to float clear of the wall. The installation owes its power to the tension created by the multiple contrasts between light and dark, treated and untreated surfaces, and inflexible factory-made metal and flexible human hand.
Frank Gerritz trained in Hamburg, where he was part of the same generation and punk scene as Daniel Richter. That history is less surprising in Richter’s case, considering the expressive nature of his paintings, on show in the GEM as recently as 2008. It is more surprising in the case of Frank Gerritz, with his severely reduced and analytical visual idiom. However, that shared past is still reflected in the unremitting roar of hard rock and punk music that accompanies his entire working life in the studio. With that soundtrack in mind, his uncompromisingly aesthetic and apparently serene works suddenly assume a different and more dynamic charge.
Perhaps this also indicates a difference between the younger generation of Minimal Art practitioners and their predecessors: the physical aspect of the working process has once again come to play an important role. The same is true of the sensory impact of their art on the museum visitor: the monumental size of their geometrical compositions gives the work a spatial effect. Entering the Projects Gallery, the presence of the installation has an immediate physical impact.
Frank Gerritz’s work is represented in a number of major collections, particularly in Germany and the US. Late last year, it was the subject of a large-scale retrospective at the Neues Museum Weserburg in Bremen. The lavishly illustrated catalogue published on that occasion will be on sale now in the Gemeentemuseum shop.