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work in Progress


The art of Charlotte Posenenske (1930-1985) was revolutionary, innovative and very brief. The German artist abandoned her artistic activity at the end of the 60s, since she considered that art conspired with the capitalist system and did not help to combat it. As opposed to her contemporaries of the American Minimalism and Conceptualism, with whom she was in contact and shared formal similarities, her abstract art does not intend to avoid an extrinsecal meaning and possesses a strong sense of references. Her work is an effort to try to integrate the human being in an industrialized society, since by nature it is alienating and oppressive. It therefore has a strong social and festive component, closely related to the trend setting currents of those times, such as the Situationist or Fluxus movement.


Posenenske’s sculptures form part of a complex social network, her designs are handed over to factory’ workers and are exhibited at the museum. Art connects artists, workers, materials, machines and spectators.

What is innovative in her artistic attitude is her concept of art as a product of social cooperation and participative character. The art consumer must get actively involved with the piece of art. Posenenske is against the bourgeois position towards art. Against both the uninterested contemplation and the static bourgeois attitude towards art at the museum, and its marketing. Art must motivate reflection and manipulation of art objects. 

The passive spectator must become a creative consumer. Thus, the purpose of her series of modular sculptures or “anti-objects” capable of being manipulated is to serve as a social liberation. Art is an antidote of alienation. Posenenske created sculptures with industrial materials that remind us of the post war urban environment in Europe. Her sculptures seem to be readymade. 


But behind the personal and idealized recreation of the industrial object, there is a production process directed by her in the factory. The aerodynamic forms and folds of lacquered metal, created by her personally, remind us of parts of a car, of advertising panels or of traffic signals. At the exhibition room, the relation between the spectator, who reinterprets his world, and objects is formed. Art has a social consequence. 

The important thing is that the art consumer participates and has fun. That he interacts with the work of art, that he challenges it and plays with it. 

Posenenske was also against the traditional centrality of the artistic authorship. Most of her painting were sold without her signature. The replacement of the paintbrush by a spray bottle or adhesive tape only help to accentuate her wish to push the author away from the work of art. 

Charlote Posenenske was against the idea that a work of art is available only to the elites. 

In order to change the marketing establishment of a piece of art, Posenenske set the value of the work of art strictly in relation with its production cost and created unlimited editions. 


The MACBA presents “Charlotte Posenenske Work in Progress”, an exhibition organized by the Dia Art Foundation. 

At the show, in four rooms, her first drawings and paintings are shown, together with her aluminum reliefs and her latest modular sculptures. In the first exhibition room, the first works of the artist are shown (1956-1957).

The Spachtel Arbeiten“ (Works of art with spatula) have an esthetic similarity with Abstract Expressionism and Informalism. 

Posenenske spreads the paint on the picture and then scrapes it, making a texture in layers. Her first works of art on paper “Raster Builder” (reticular paintings) are investigations in the field of series, repetition and variation of a specific reticle. Some of these Works, arbitrary distributions of points, carried out mechanically, remind us of the Argentine painter and sculptor Lucio Fontana´s works.

In that room, we may also see sketches and studies on geometric stage design and wardrobes for Puccini’s opera “Turandot”. 

In the second room there are works where the artist introduces industrial material processes.

Paintings made with spray “Spritzbilder” incorporate primary and secondary colors that create an illusion of depth as opposed to the underlying plane. In the works made with adhesive tape on paper, “Streifenbild”, the artist defines her color palette: red, blue, yellow and black (Pal system).

In the “Plastische Bilder” (1966-1967) Posenenske creates undulations and folds in painted paper or metal, in an effort to escape from bi-dimensionality. The series A, B and C represent her actual jump to sculpture. Monochromatic objects of industrial production appear hanging from the wall or placed on the floor in 2-4 combinations. 

Prominences of steel enameled in concave, oval or convex forms, vertically or horizontally, remind us of the works of the minimalist American sculptor Donald Judd. These works, as opposed to the “Plastiche Bilder”, are manufactured industrially in a limited number.

The sculpture Drehflügel Series E (Revolving doors Series E), newly made, invites the public to interact with the work. The visitor may open the revolving doors and enter the space contained between the three sides of the sculpture. 


The video “Monotonie ist schön” (1968) was made by Posenenske in a trip to the Netherlands. The film, shot in Super 8, captures the repetition of the industrial landscape. 


Room 3 exhibits Series D and DW. Series D “Vierkantrohre” (series of square tubes) has six forms made in galvanized steel layers. These sculptures, very similar to air ventilation pipes, offer a playful aspect of the industrial production. Some cubic ascending or branched pipes invite spectators to enter the wall. Other pipes have the form of horseshoes or form a loop.

The DW series is a variant of only four forms produced in cardboard. A huge cardboard pipeline cuts the space of the room diagonally by means of three aligned modules.

On the right of the room there are nine sculptures in three 3x3 series that have the form of a chimney. 

A cardboard pipeline enters the wall to reappear in the next room. The playful aspect of the sculptures of this room, humorous, turns the space into a playground where the visitor may feel like a child wishing to enter the space and play with the works of art. 

The space is solidified by the sculptures and these, in turn, seem volatilized in space. To be loyal to the spirit of the artist´s style, the layout of Series D (series of square metal pipes) will be modified twice during the exhibition. The public will be invited to attend the room´s remodeling. The last room of the exhibition (room 4) is dedicated to documentation, original designs and videos of the artist´s actions. 


MACBA (Barcelona) 18.10.2019-08-03-2020

Written by © David Armengou

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