The structures of the German artist Karsten Födinger exude a raw physicality. Their materials — cast concrete, iron, cement and gypsum plasterboard, for instance — embody power and functionality, and tend to be deployed in a similar manner to how they might be used on a construction site: reinforcing one another and frequently being protected by wood and scaffolding as though in a state prior to completion. Recalling the arresting simplicity of Minimalist and Process art, Födinger’s structures convey also the sense of having a purpose, yet one that is curiously absent, completed only in the imagination.
Angsteisen (2012), meaning the over-use of iron to ensure the strength of a structure that has been made without the calculations of an engineer, fills the entirety of RaebervonStenglin’s front gallery. The work consists of a double iron lattice 30 cm high whose shape is entirely dictated by that of the room, and which makes safe the possibility of a concrete fundament being cast on top of the exhibition’s floor. The iron bars crisscross 15 cm apart, but are closer together near the edges of the structure where more reinforcement is needed, and are bordered with wood: structural principles which can readily be seen as the concrete itself is lacking. Angsteisen relates to Födinger’s concurrent exhibition at Kunsthalle St. Gallen, ‘C30/37; XD1, XF2’, in which a sculpture takes the form of a mould prepared to create a giant concrete bridge piller; and also to his previous work Untitled (2010), an abstract concrete form inspired by the shape of an avalanche breaker, which opened RaebervonStenglin as though protecting the gallery from its sudden exposure. For all their heft and formalist punch, such works are perceived as much in the mind as by the body, inveigling the viewer into fathoming their mysterious raison d’êtres.
The second gallery space features a tower out of concrete held in position by an iron basket. The concrete bulges out through the holes in the iron structure, spilling onto the floor and spattering the walls as though from centrifugal force. The relationship between the iron and the concrete, pressure and counter-pressure has formed the sculpture; each holding the other in balance. These tensions push out into and are effected by the void of the room. Emptiness as well as materiality is emphasised in all Födinger’s works — both in the space in which the viewer encounters the works and the preparations made for phantom outcomes — so that the world beyond the work and its gallery feels latent and pressing.
Karsten Födinger was born in 1978 in Mönchengladbach, Germany. He studied at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe and lives and works in Karlsruhe. His recent solo exhibitions include ‘C30/37; XD1, XF2’ currently at Kunsthalle Sankt Gallen (2012); ‘cantilever’, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2011) and ‘Grand opening at RaebervonStenglin’, RaebervonStenglin, Zürich (2010). He is showing in Art Basel Statements 2012 for RaebervonStenglin and has an upcoming solo show at KIOSK, Gent (April 2012)