Focus on: Robert Ryman, Versions

Robert Ryman, Versions XI, 1991

In 1983, Urs Raussmüller and Robert Ryman installed 50 paintings of the latter in the Hallen für Neue Kunst in Schaffhausen in what would be the first of three consecutive installations of the artist (these turned out to set the standard for the presentation and perception of Ryman works: further reading). In 1991 Raussmüller asked his friend to create new works and present them parallel to the existing installation in a special exhibition. Motivated by the challenge to compete with his own works, Ryman created a series of 16 paintings between 1991 and 92 that did not match anything else he made before: the “Versions”. The openness of the painting and its specific interaction with light and space made them unique in Ryman’s Oeuvre.

In the Versions, Robert Ryman used all parts of the painting to create something whole that directly approaches the viewers. All elements of the painting are consciously joined to one aesthetic impression: The structured support made of very thin fiberglass, slightly primed by Ryman; the overlayed grid of fine pencil lines, the remarkably lively but still open application of oil paint, the dating or signature. Even the mostly white painted nails fixing the painting to the wall are not hammered in fully in order to leave a dark shadow on the painting surface as another compositorial element.

On the top edge Ryman attached a strip of wax paper, which expands the fiberglass upwards and is casually stapled to the wall. The soft reflections of the wax paper extend even more the wide range of light absorption and reflection on the painting surface and gives the works a movement towards the spectator.

The catalogue to the exhibition in Schaffhausen with a text by Christel Raussmüller and a talk with Robert Ryman and Urs Raussmüller as well as illustrations of the Versions can be found in our bookshop.