“Homage to the Square” – the name of Josef Albers’ celebrated series of paintings - is more than appropriate as the title of this new presentation of the Marli Hoppe-Ritter Collection. Drawing on her holdings of artworks dedicated to the square, Marli Hoppe-Ritter has put together a fascinating cross-section of paintings, works on paper, sculptures and objects from the realm of Concrete Constructivist art. Some 80 works ranging from Kasimir Malevich to the present give an intriguing insight into the abstract geometrical world of the square. And a great many of the exhibits are recent acquisitions and works from the last 15 years, which have never previously been exhibited at Museum Ritter.
More than any other shape, the square has managed time and again to keep artists in its thrall throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Consequently the (art) historical span of this exhibition ranges from early geometrical painting in the 1910s to bang up to date works on the square.
Paintings and works on paper by classic artists of the first generation of abstract constructive artists - such as Theo van Doesburg, El Lissitzky, Kasimir Malevich, Nicolaj Suetin and Ilja Chashnik – give a perfect introduction to the early years of this new vision of art.
That geometrical art has continued to forge new paths in the post war period is vividly illustrated by works by from among others Willi Baumeister, Ad Dekkers, Thomas Lenk, Georg Karl Pfahler.
Another important focus of this presentation is directed to a parallel development – Kinetic Art and the kindred Op Art - that came at much the same time: Through surprising flickering effects and visual illusions, artists such as Martha Boto, Karl Gerstner, Christian Megert, Paolo Scirpa and Gregorio Vardanega have constantly enchanted their viewers.
To this day we find artists paying homage to the square with a mixture of dedication and passion. And it is refreshing to see with what self-assurance and levity present-day artists - who are particularly well represented in this exhibition - juggle with this shape. Not rarely through the help of new, unconventional techniques and materials such as Lego bricks, cleaning sponges, and ropes of beads. These young artists include among others Corrado Bonomi, Jessica Centner, Jonathan Monk, Antoine Perrot, Paola Pivi and Anatoly Shuravlev. Many of the members of this generation are fond of doing their own original, playful takes on the grand old men and pioneers of concrete constructivist art – above all Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian - whose revolutionary works have once again attracted increasing attention in art circles.
By way of contrast come artists such as Gerhard Frömel, Gottfried Honegger, Nelly Rudin and Klaus Staudt, all leading practitioners of geometrical art who continue to pursue the rigorous tradition of Concrete Constructivism to the present day with high aesthetic standards. Their works, which shine out by their inordinate clarity and precision, belong to the innermost core of the collection and are of central importance to Museum Ritter.