42 x 39.4 x 20.4 cm
13 labeled vials, rubber pins, fragrance, wooden box with glass window, adhesive letters, metal handle and hinge, rubber
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Hermann Strittmatter, GGK Zürich
The work of Karl Gerstner (born 1930 in Basel, Switzerland, where he died in 2017) is based on his programmatic interest in the investigation of scientific theories and the creative process. This is exemplified by both his artistic work and his many art theoretical publications, such as the standard work “Kalte Kunst? Zum Standort der heutigen Malerei” from 1957. In 1959, Gerstner co-founded the advertising agency GGK, playing a decisive influence in its legendary reputation. He is regarded as one of the most innovative advertising graphic designers of the 1950s, ‘60s, and ’70s.
Gerstner works in the genres of painting, sculpture, objects, artist’s multiples, and print graphics. Since the 1950s, one of his key interests has been to develop works that can be altered manually, thus inviting viewers to participate in the artistic process – for example, “Untitled” (undated) and “AlgoRhythmus” (1969–1970). A second core theme is the creation of multiples with which Gerstner hopes to facilitate the cheap, more or less democratic distribution of his work. Gerstner divides his body of work into twelve “chapters,” each of which refer to a predefined programmatic theme of systems science. For example, “Aperspektiven” are structured in such a way that the right side seamlessly connects to the left, while the upper side connects to the lower side, meaning that the structure of the picture could be potentially infinite (“Aperspektive 0,” 1952/1953). Gerstner has also visualized further systems, such as algorithms in his “AlgoRhythmen,” permutations in his “Synchromien” (“Synchromie 45,” 1992/1993; “Zyklische Permutation II B,” 1974; and “Synchromie,” 2003), fractals in his “Color Fractals” (“Color Fractal 4,” 1990), and Islamic ornaments in his “Color Lines" (“Color Lines,” 1957/1977). As with his forms, his colors also derive from scientifically based color systems, some of which he developed specially for this purpose. Color is also the basis for his “Metachroms” (“Chromophose - Metachrom 4.07,” 1974; “Metachrom 5.07,” 1993), “Color Lines,” “Color Forms,” and “Color Sounds” (“Color Sound,” 1972; “Color Sound 12 Intro Version,” 1968–1973).
Karl Gerstner regards his work as a kind of “participatory art” meant to activate our perception to the greatest possible degree. While his main concern is the act of seeing – which he explores, for example, in “Linsenbild” (1964), and “Prismenbild” (undated) – he also sometimes works with the sense of smell (“Taste Perceptor,” 1970). Grounded in scientific ideas, his work displays the highest intellectual, formal, and technical precision.