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Beat Zoderer

Departement I-VII, 1993

Document files

7 parts, each 62 x 62 x 8 cm

© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022

Photo: Franz Wamhof


Beat Zoderer belongs to a generation of artists who have donned the historic mantle of abstraction in a completely undogmatic way. But at the same time he plays a special game with his forebears: he cites their works, plants their ideas in modern everyday life, and at the same time alerts the viewer to the aesthetic nature of the reality that surrounds us. It is above all the materials that Zoderer uses that create this interpenetration of art and everyday life. Strictly in line with this, he uses visual means that come from the applied arts. And even when he works in the classic sense as a painter, he uses industrial paint from the “RAL colour matching system”. Often objects substitute in his works for actual paint as the colour source. As is true of the seven sections that make up the work Departement I–VII, in each of which four document files have been arranged on the wall in the shape of a square. Along with plastic folders, self-adhesive labels and carbon paper, files are one of the materials that Zoderer has appropriated from the office context, and which thus have a strong connection with everyday aesthetics.


This work underlines one of the central concerns in Beat Zoderer’s work: he approaches already extant images on the formal level, while finding a material alternative that enables him to develop something completely new from the given theme. Here the cardboard covers of the document files assume the function of colour surfaces. And with the arrangements he uses, the artist harks back to the systems and principles that informed concrete art. In fact that most elementary form of concrete art, the square, is realized twice over here. It appears as the outline of the document files when they are arranged together, and also as the empty space at the centre of the four surfaces. This approach is similar to that of Richard Paul Lohse, who often developed his systematic pictures from the square as his basic module. Similarly, in Zoderer’s work the structure is determined by the size of the individual elements, which in this case comply with industrial standards: A4. He describes them as a “module of the office”, as a way of ordering everyday life, as it were, whose function is redefined in the system called art. The title Departement I–VII alludes to the Ministries in Switzerland and also to the seven days of the week, so that in contrast to the professed self-referentiality of the Zurich Concretists, Zoderer creates a link to the physical context on the content level. In this way, the work straddles the cross-currents of abstraction and realism.


Beat Zoderer

1955 born in Zurich

Lives and works in Wettingen (CH) and Genoa (IT)