Publikation, 19BILDER19PICS
Förderpreis der Stadt Düsseldorf

Ausstellung im Kunstraum Düsseldorf
Maki Umehara, René Zeh
10.12.2010 – 23.01.2011
Katalog: René Zeh
Text: René Zechlin
Fotos: © wie angegeben
Auflage: 300
Herstellung: Jan van der Most, Düsseldorf

René Zechlin
Kunstverein Hanover 2010

The Case Study Houses constituted a program for developing new residential architecture in the United States after World War Two. In the period from 1945 to 1966, renowned architects such as Richard Neutra, Charles and Ray Eames, or Eero Saarinen designed a total of thirty-six houses, most of which were actually built. These simple modernistic houses not only stand for a unique and innovative episode in the history of architecture, but also long ago became synonyms for the promising onset of modernism, a dawning perspective leaving behind the embellished dreariness of the pre- and post-war periods and looking toward the future. Also contributing to this image were the photographs of the completed houses taken by Julius Shulman and first published in the periodical Arts & Architecture.

Pictures such as that of the Steel House by Pierre Koenig towering high above Los Angeles have in the meantime become icons, not only of architectural photography, but also of a certain lifestyle. The single-story expansiveness of the spaces and the open glass architecture were already anticipated in Mies van der Rohe’s Pavilion in Barcelona on the occasion of the World Exhibition in 1929 and may be found most extensively in the architecture of the Neue Nationalgalerie from 1956. The pictures of the Case Study Houses, however, convey more than just architecture. The depictions also stand for a luxurious hedonism which is familiar from James Bond or David Lynch films, and which serves as the basis for the dreams purveyed by magazines devoted to interior design or lifestyle.

The Case Study Houses became a myth for a generation which did not itself experience the onset of modernism. Having grown up in an average, (petty-) bourgeois environment, it discovers the vision of a new mode of residing and living which has already taken place. A paradoxical situation. The houses promise a future which has already occurred.

The case-study function of the houses emphasizes their visionary character. It is a matter here of an active and experimental shaping of the future and of life. Cases studies are oriented toward possible real situations, but they normally remain theoretical exercises. Thus the Case Study Houses retain the character of a model, even though they have already been realized.

Architectural models are situated in a compositional process between thought and realization. An ideal, a vision which has already taken on form, but has not yet been realized and perhaps cannot be realized precisely in such a manner. This open character of a not-completed process may also be found in the pictures of scaffoldings, wooden constructions, and building shells. They give expression to a stage of intermediacy, of change.

René Zeh’s Case Study Models are not characterized by the chill severity of the Case Study Houses. Instead they link the idea of the Case Study Houses with the concept of the primal human hut. The primitive dwelling as an original form of civilization and architecture. Lying within the search for a simple hut is a longing for primitiveness which repeatedly comes to expression in tenting vacations, holiday cabins, allotment-garden cottages, and tree-houses.

The hut as a site of withdrawal from civilization. of retreat from the demands of everyday life, as a shelter for dreams and desires.

René Zeh’s Case Study Models depict a state between construction shell and dilapidation. The huts and tree-houses of his works resemble the ruins of grown-up children. In spite of being enameled in the colors of chill IKEA design, they seem provisional and unattainable. Also including segments from current lifestyle magazines, René Zeh’s models become case studies of a hedonistic generation. Contradictory, disparate facets of an indefinite yearning cohere into a fragmentary image. These are places of refuge for modern nomads who establish their coordinates out of subjective ideals in profession, design, fashion, and lifestyle.

Thus the nineteen pictures selected for this publication serve as material for both work and reference. They show more than just the subjective interests of the artist. The combination of a depiction from the film Bantar Gebang by de Rijke / de Rooij, which uses a static camera to portray a slum district on a garbage dump in India, with the futuristic architectural designs of Rem Koolhas is just as contradictory and simultaneously contemporary as the dynamic field between provisional hut and high-gloss surface which comes to expression in the Case Study Models. Operating between affirmation and critical self-reflection, René Zeh brings to light the fragmentary foundations of a superficial perfection and, in a manner all his own, creates by means of his disparate collages, drawings, sculptures, models, and space-encompassing installations dense portraits of a contradictory era.

“What I require is to live fully the contradiction of my times, which can turn sarcasm into the prerequisite for truth.” (Roland Barthes)

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