Inspiration is a little town in China
Tobias Rehberger's Paper Works at Haus am Waldsee in Berlin

With WRAP IT UP, Deutsche Bank, together with MACRO in Rome, presented the first comprehensive exhibition of paper works by Tobias Rehberger ever in 2014. Rehberger's intensive involvement with the medium of paper is now being shown for the first time in a solo exhibition in Germany. Inspiration is a little town in China - in Paper is the title of the show, which covers the entire spectrum of Rehberger's examination of paper as a material in recent decades – from drawings and watercolors from the early 1990s to diary-like collages and series of large-format computer prints and three-dimensional works. Rehberger, for whom paper certainly has a sculptural quality, deliberately does not call his creations "works on paper," but "works in paper.“

An at once ironic and materialistic-philosophical reference to paper production are Rehberger's club-shaped, tower-shaped, and lump-shaped termite mounds, which recall the abstraction of postwar modernism. They allude to the fact that while paper was first produced in China over 2,000 years ago, termites have been producing a kind of paper pulp through processes of digesting cellulose (e.g. from wood, hemp, and grass) for over 200 million years, which they use as a material for their dwellings. In addition, new installations made of paper and a billboard designed by Rehberger in the garden are on view.

For the Deutsche Bank Collection, works on paper by Rehberger were already purchased at the beginning of the 1990s, and they can now be seen in Berlin, including his series S.M.V. (Somme, Marne Verdun) from 1993. The watercolors, which were actually created as plein-air paintings, look like they are the result of finger exercises of a hobby artist who carried his easel into nature to capture the mood of spring: the tender green of the young grass, the course of the woods on the horizon, the changing blue and gray tones of the sky. These landscapes seem lovely and harmless to the point of triviality, but as the title suggests, these idylls are in reality the sites of former battlefields. More than one million soldiers died in the Somme region in July 1916 during an Allied offensive and a further 380,000 in March 1918 during a German offensive. The sight of the fields betrays nothing of this history; it is and remains banal despite all the suffering and horror.

One of Rehberger's most radical paper projects is also on exhibit in Berlin. For an edition for the Deutsche Bank Collection, he burned his entire wardrobe during an action in the Allgäu region of Germany in 2003. The artist had black paint made from the charred residues of his clothing, which he then used to print his computer-generated work Großer Akt vor Schneelandschaft (Large Nude in Winter Landscape) – a kind of abstract-alchemistic self-portrait. "I wanted to make something absurd, something unpleasant and kitschy yet still magical," Rehberger recalled in an interview with ArtMag. "At my grandmother’s house, there were photos that looked like calendar sheets with green adhesive fixed between two glass panels. I simply liked the idea of concrete things like clothing producing this nothingness, this abstract something, something between Henry Moore and a Marian apparition.“

This switch between different systems of thought and worldviews is typical for the artist, who has been teaching sculpture at the Städelschule in Frankfurt since 2001. Rehberger, as he himself says, is concerned with "uncertainty about what actually seems so clear and simple, uncertainty in regard to what is called art.”

Inspiration is a little town in China – in Paper

September 6 – November 17, 2019
Haus am Waldsee, Berlin