ROLAND GEBHARDT Framing Perceptual Illusions: A series of wall sculptures examines presence, absence, and voids

David RIchard Gallery

Apr. 18, 2024 - May. 19, 2023

508 West 26th St, Studio 9E
New York, 10001
PHONE 917 853-8161

Framing Perceptual Illusions:
A series of wall sculptures examines
presence, absence, and voids

April 18 – May 19, 2023

Artist Reception:
Saturday, April 22, 2023 from 2:00 to 5:00 PM

508 West 26th Street, Suite 9F

David Richard Gallery, LLC
526 West 26th Street, Suite 311 | New York, NY 10001
P: (212) 882-1705

NOTE: The number of people in the gallery at any one time will be limited for safety purposes due to the pandemic and face coverings are required for entry and at all times

Private viewings are available by appointment, please call or email the gallery to schedule.

Click here to view the exhibition
David Richard Gallery is pleased to debut the newest series of minimalist sculptures by New York-based artist, Roland Gebhardt. This presentation, Framing Perceptual Illusions: A Series of Wall Sculptures Examines Presence, Absence, and Voids, Gebhardt’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, includes 10 of the 13 new sculptures in the series referred to collectively as “Frames” produced throughout 2021. Structurally, the Frames are wall mounted constructions of white-painted wood, measuring 42 inches high by 42 inches wide and projecting 12 inches off the surface of the wall, that read as open frames hanging with the wall fully visible within and around the wooden confines of the frame. Each is comprised of one or two parallel vertical columns measuring 6 x 6 inches square laid on and attached perpendicularly at the corners (generally, or slightly off center for the T-shaped sculptures noted below) of one or two parallel horizontal columns of the same dimensions. The completed series includes structures that are either square, an upside-down-U, an upside-down-T, L-shapes, or an asymmetric cross structure.

Voids have been an important and foundational element of Gebhardt’s artworks for many decades. What is meant by “voids” are the aspects of an object that are not there, which have been removed, excised, or simply not included. The voids are often deep angled cuts that look like joinery for assembling the modular elements of the Frames. Frequently, the voids bisect the perpendicular wood columns at an angle, to, ironically, “create the connection” between the two columns (visually, not literally). The cast shadows and bounce of light off the white-painted, semi-gloss surfaces make each work dynamic. Installed in groups of 2, 3 or 4, the voids become a critical part of the dialogue by directing the viewer’s eye between points interior to one structure as well as points between structures, thereby enhancing a consistent reading of the rigorous geometric shapes (either the voids removed from vertical and horizontal elements of each structure or by the absence of one or two sides of certain structures) across the series of the wall constructions (or constellations in the artist’s vernacular).

About the Exhibition:

The title of this presentation is very descriptive. It informs the viewer that they will see frame structures mounted on a wall, certain elements of such structures may not be present, while others may have part of an element removed, possibly for joining the elements together or for some aesthetic or conceptual basis.

Gebhardt works in series, in a very systematic fashion to explore subtle permutations of the elements within the individual works and across the series. Thus, in minimalist fashion, these literal and tangible sculptures are: comprised of like elements repeated one after the other generating a set; produced by a fabricator according to meticulous specifications of the artist; void of color and decoration; and, not optical. Interestingly, this series of wall sculptures in the presentation read as frames, and quite possibly as paintings due to cognitive perception. The viewer’s senses of sight and touch perceive the sculptures in the exhibition environment, which also provides a certain level of context and possibly suggestion to the viewer being a gallery (think Duchamp, but subtle). Through cognition, the viewer interprets and makes sense of what they perceive relying on their memory, experiential learning, and problem-solving skills to provide references for and resolution to what they observe. Through this process, cognition fills in the blanks and missing pieces, in the context of the viewing space they see the partial square structures as part of and related to the square frames. Said another way, deconstructed squares adjacent to a full square or U-shaped sculpture allows the partial structure to be interpreted or read similarly as a square in that exhibition context. The rationale is the voids and angles within the structures, between structures, and within the gallery space keep the viewer’s eye moving, scanning, and gathering more data and through cognitive processes in the viewer’s mind, more associations are made to further suggest and affirm the relationships between the complete and partial frame structures on the wall. This illusory effect is different from optical effects frequently seen in art, this is not trompe l’oeil, instead, it is interpretation of the perceptions and experiences.

The voids are not about the removal or loss of something or absence of some part of an object, nor what was taken away, but rather, Gebhardt uses voids to focus on what they bring to the artwork and installation. A void can create, first and foremost, a new way of looking at something, putting an emphasis on an aspect that would otherwise be overlooked. Gebhardt’s voids create explicit spatial connections between objects: whether as a component of an array of similar and sequentially permuted elements; a series of relational elements, unrelated, but proximal to other unrelated objects in a presentation, that have an interaction between the voids; or with the geometric architecture of the exhibition space itself. The absence of something may also make one appreciate the missing element or form, or the integrity it imparts to the “whole,” or the elegance of the sum of the parts to begin with, that is the whole itself. Thus, the viewer becomes sensitized to looking for relationships (real or illusory, such as planar or linear connections) between materials and objects that they would otherwise not consider.

About Gebhardt’s Artworks:

Roland Gebhardt’s studio practice has always addressed objects and how they are situated, both in space and within a space. The former, “in space”, considers the object in isolation, in and of itself, each side and detailed views of just the object, no consideration of, nor interaction with any other objects, they are like sketches of discrete views on clean sheets of paper for each artwork. The latter, “within a space,” are spatial considerations that go beyond the artist’s formal and aesthetic concerns and conceptions for each isolated object as just described and often emerge when the artist contemplates several objects being presented together or as a constellation (the artist’s term for an assembly or aggregation of individual objects). Such considerations are between an object and its relationship to other objects in proximity to it as well as the physical architectural surroundings. Gebhardt’s investigations tend to be direct and systematic, focusing on a single concept within each object and related series. As a result, the objects are elemental, reductive, they assume minimalist shapes and are absent of coloration. Gebhardt has always worked with materials that are basic to art making: paper, wood, aluminum, steel, stone. His palette is usually the natural color of the material in use or white with the occasional use of black.

Gebhardt’s sculptures, including individual sculptures, larger installations, and tribes, not only act alone or within and among similar installations and groupings, or between other sculptures and objects as noted above, but also interact with the actual space they are situated in. Said another way, each presentation of the sculptures is unique regarding each space of each presentation (even if different spaces have the same sculptures and configurations). The reason is because the lighting, wall surfaces, and architecture are different in each space. Every space has different ceiling heights, wall angles, corner locations and other linear, curvilinear and spatial elements, such as duct work, track lights, and surface-applied wall trims, that create their own interactions with the sculptures with their own unique voids and resulting vectors and trajectories. Such vectors and trajectories create lines that go beyond the physical element initiating the vector and continue into space, intersecting with other architectural elements and trajectories in space or with the artworks themselves. Thus, they can direct the viewer’s eye to many different locations in the architectural space and give the viewer different interactions with and perceptions of the artworks, or the presentation itself.

Even though Gebhardt’s sculptures are reductive and minimalist in their aesthetic, created with the greatest economy of means, there are layers of complexity when one considers voids within and between works that justify the artist’s systematic, methodical, and empirical approach. As noted, there are also interactions and unique complexities due to the presentation space. However, the artist cannot foresee nor control those interactions and that is part of the unknown and charm as he happily releases each sculpture into the world.

Gebhardt’s artwork goes far beyond its rooting in minimalist tendencies with reductive forms and palettes. There are also dialogues with hard edge and geometric abstraction, Concrete Art, as well as optical and illusory imagery. However, his work is cerebral, intellectual, and unemotional, very much aligned with the tenets of Conceptualism. Each of these art historical periods and movements has a common thread, which is how we (artists and viewers) look at something and in turn, how our minds interpret what we see. The hard edge and geometric shapes provide Gebhardt with the building blocks for his compositions. The illusory and optical effects are not intentional, they are a byproduct of his process, but do have the benefit of challenging viewer’s perceptions and activating their eyes and minds. The voids may be Gebhardt’s greatest contribution to his own work and for other artists and curators because of what they create (within an individual work or constellation of many works) and how they direct our eyes and attention. The voids provide opportunities to view something in different ways and challenge our conceptions, with potential for becoming metaphors for cultural and social commentary and contemplating the human condition.

About Roland Gebhardt:

Roland Gebhardt was born in Paramaribo, Suriname 1939. He studied at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich and earned a Master of Fine Arts at the Art Academy of Hamburg. He is a sculptor working in a variety of media and exhibits internationally. Probably best known for his large-scale environmental sculptures that explore the concept of “linear volume” and presented at Wave Hill and Storm King, both in New York in the early 1970s. Another important body of work was his examination of “host volumes” using a range of natural materials, including boulders, fruit and vegetables in a critically acclaimed series of eight single day presentations in 1982 at the Kunstmuseum, Duesseldorf.

Moving into a more conceptual realm, Gebhardt explored the complex subject of individual and group identity by leveraging sculpture and creating a series of masks to produce, “The Only Tribe”, a multi-media performance work at the 3LD Art & Technology Center in New York City in December of 2008. The theme of identity was further explored by incorporating dance with sculptural masks in 2013 at Storm King Art Center and on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution. “Trophies”, a further iteration incorporating music explored identity and the transformation from a living being to a hunter’s trophy.

Gebhardt’s works are in the permanent collections of numerous museums and public collections, including: the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY; Neuberger Museum, State University of New York, Purchase, NY; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; Kunstsammlung of the City of Ludwigshafen, Germany; Wave Hill, Center for Environmental Studies, Bronx, NY; among others as well as many corporate and private collections.[c3]

About David Richard Gallery:

Since its inception in 2010, David Richard Gallery has produced museum quality exhibitions that feature Post War abstraction in the US. The presentations have addressed specific decades and geographies as well as certain movements and tendencies. While the gallery has long been recognized as an important proponent of post-1960s abstraction—including both the influential pioneers as well as a younger generation of practitioners in this field—in keeping with this spirit of nurture and development the gallery also presents established artists who embrace more gestural and representational approaches to the making of art as well as young emerging artists.

In 2015 David Richard Gallery launched DR Art Projects to provide a platform for artists of all stripes—international, national, local, emerging and established—to present special solo projects or to participate in unique collaborations or thematic exhibitions. The goal is to offer a fresh look at contemporary art practice from a broad spectrum of artists and presentations. The Gallery opened its current location in New York in 2017.

All Artwork
Copyright © Roland Gebhardt
Courtesy David Richard Gallery.

All Photographs by Yao Zu Lu

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