10 parts: each 50 x 50 cm
Screenprint on paper
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Sammlung Rolf und Friedel Gutmann
Portfolio of 10 screenprints and a text by Heinz Gappmayr, published by Hoffmann Ottenhausen in 1986
The Tyrolean artist Heinz Gappmayr (born 1925 and died 2010 in Innsbruck, Austria) drew on language as the main material in his art. In so doing, he took the building blocks of our language – words and letters, as well as numbers and punctuation marks – and revealed their fundamental nature as coded graphic forms by isolating them from their usual “con-text” and transferred them to a visual, syntactical order in his graphic works, wall works, and installations. This extraction, dismantling, and variation of individual words and sentence elements follows not only purely aesthetic principles; it is also based on a carefully conceived philosophical concept. Gappmayr’s works let us engage as beholders in a new and unprejudiced way of reflecting on the symbolic content of the words we use everyday without thinking about the nature of the relationship between the signifier and the signified.
This is especially interesting regarding words that do not have a material, tangible referent, but which rather denote something abstract. It thus comes as no surprise that words like “wind,” “light,” “time,” and “now” run through Gappmayr’s extensive body of work. In the portfolio of screen prints belonging to the collection of the Museum Haus Konstruktiv, the adjectives “weiss” (white) and “sichtbar” (visible) are shown in every possible visual permutation. The concepts they describe can be deduced here through (mental) images approaching a conceptual reality.
Gappmayr’s investigations into the referential character of language, which he pursued from the early 1960s on, display a certain affinity to structuralism and semiotics. In art history, his works are usually regarded as Concrete or visual poetry, although this is not quite correct, as Gappmayr himself regarded the word “poetry” as “atavistic,” or outdated. And yet, an affinity to Concrete Art can be detected in his attempts to visualize non-visual situations – a subject that interested Max Bill as well. His art also shows certain similarities to Conceptual Art – for example, Lawrence Weiner and Joseph Kosuth. Ultimately, it was the uniqueness of Gappmayr’s position that made him the subject of many exhibitions in Austria and abroad, while also inspiring a significant number of publications on his body of work.