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— Viewing room
Richard Fleischner: Witness Mark

“Fleischner believes in absolute truths based on human proportions that can and should be utilized in the making of art, and that have shaped many of the great cultural artifacts in human history.” – art historian and curator, Jennifer Gross

 

Helwaser Gallery is pleased to present Witness Mark, a solo exhibition by artist Richard Fleischner (b. 1944, New York). Over an extensive, five-decade career, Fleischner has produced a wide-ranging body of work that comprises large-scale sited works, sculpture, photography, and drawing. This will be the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work at the gallery, and will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, with an essay by art historian and curator Jennifer Gross.

 

Update: In the wake of the growing public health crisis earlier this year, we took the opportunity to check in with Richard Fleischner to host an online conversation between him, and Jennifer Gross. Over email, art historian and curator Jennifer Gross posed three questions to Fleischner; what resulted is a conversation about the notion of "shelter", Fleischner's practice, and his engagement with fundamental, basic forms that are the bedrock of art and architecture history.

 

Explore their conversation here.

Last modified

August 9, 2020

"Working with basic materials such as wood, card- board, dung plaster, beeswax, and paper, I’ve made a significant new body of work over the past two or three years. The process of working with these materials has been intimate and immediate...My work grows out of the details that I recognize and acknowledge within the commonplace and the universal – which are irreducible in our everyday built experience."

 

— Richard Fleischner

divider: installation

Creating a "sense of place" is a crucial principle that undergirds Fleischner's individual sculptures. By combining primary forms, lines, and volumes in his sculptures, Fleischner emphasizes a return to vernacular, simple forms that are repeated throughout art and architectural history. His sculpture Untitled Construction (2016) evokes a reference to the basic architectural structures found in temporary shelters constructed in Palestinian refugee camps, which Fleischner documented on his travels to Jericho in 1980. 

Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2016
steel, earthen-plaster, milk paint
15 1/4 x 22 1/4 x 12 1/2 inches (38.7 x 56.5 x 31.8 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Palestinian Refugee Camp Photographs,
1980
archival pigment print
17 x 22 in (43.2 x 55.9 cm)
divider- installation view 2
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2016
wood, cardboard, earthen-plaster, catalpa pods
25 1/2 x 20 1/4 x 5 7/8 inches (64.8 x 51.4 x 14.9 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018
gouache on paper
30 x 31 1/2 inches (76 x 80 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Palestinian Refugee Camp Photographs
1980
archival pigment print
17 x 22 in (43.2 x 55.9 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2016
plaster, burlap, paper, pigmented beeswax, ash
5 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 9 in (14 x 42.5 x 22.9 cm)

"Ruins like those at Pompeii and Ostia Antica in Italy, the simple existing qualities of a factory, stone quarry, or mill, and the beauty and integrity of everyday, unauthored situations have always been compelling to Fleischner... In ruins there are minimal references to what was once there, but the basic gesture of place remains. It is a sense of place in its most primitive and primal form... It is this economy of line, plane, and volume that captures the artist and which he repeats in his built work and in the gouaches." 

 

—Julia Brown, writer and curator

Richard Fleischner
Untitled (Plaster Construction)
2015
plaster
5 x 4 x 7 3/4 in (12.7 x 10.2 x 19.7 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2016
wood, cardboard, plaster
4 3/4 x 14 3/4 x 3 3/8 in (12.1 x 37.5 x 8.6 cm)

From the 1970s onwards, Fleischner began to work on the large-scale commissions that he is best known for today. According to Jennifer Gross, Fleischner's "Land Art installations dovetailed with an international field of artists, including Siah Armajani, Agnes Denes, Robert Irwin, and Mary Miss, who were interested in humankind's connection to nature and in operating outside the traditional museum and gallery arenas in order to engage a broader public." 

 

Using the term "place-making", Fleischner's work considers dimensioned space, and our perceptions and experiences of it. Distance, inside/outside, placement, form, scale, color and light are all aspects of his work that he considers within his large-scale, sited works, which he has built across various sites in the United States and abroad. 

divider image: Becton Dickinson

Richard Fleischner, Becton Dickinson Project, 1985-87, detail of one aspect of site, depicting granite inlay with elements in woods. Work included exterior garden terrace area, with stepped grass plane, and inlay in woods. Wood included all aspects of the site in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey.

"Fleischner’s experience of built form was established in the densely populated, highly determined environment of the Bronx, New York, where he spent his childhood. It was a place in which the unyielding planes of handball or basket- ball courts defined open, public space, where enclosures circumscribed by chain-link fences and brick walls became the stage for his imagination
and first encounters with his own perspective on the world." 

— Jennifer Gross, in "A Recalibrated Approach", Richard Fleischner: Witness Mark 

divider - documenta image

Richard Fleischner, Floating Square, 1977, sod and earth, 15 x 110 x 110 feet. Installation view, documenta 6, Kassel, Germany (destroyed)

Richard Fleischner
Untitled #19
2014-15
earthen-plaster, cardboard
11 x 9 x 91/4 inches (27.9 x 22.9 x 23.5 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled
2015
4 3/4 x 18 1/4 x 9 1/2 inches (12.1 x 46.4 x 24.1 cm)
divider - installation view - gouaches

Fleischner's recent gouaches similarly address the arrangement of forms within a single, unitary surface. In his works, colored elements — usually cubes and rectangles — are suspended in the ground of the work. His gouaches address the same formal principles found in his sited projects, and his individual sculptures, realized in the more intimate scale of small, and larger-scale drawings. 

Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018
gouache on paper
11 5/8 x 11 5/8 in (29.5 x 29.4 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018
gouache on paper
20 3/8 x 22 1/4 in (51.8 x 56.5 cm)

Fleischner's gouaches are made through a long process of buidling up layers of paint, then sanding, scraping, and washing them down. The worked surfaces of his gouaches bear the marks of the artist's own hand, similar to many of the indvidual sculptures. As Julia Brown writes, "In the same way Fleischner works the surface of a stone or piece of wood in his built projects as well as in his singular sculptures to achieve a certain patina, the surfaces of the gouaches develop a finish of complex interest, a physicality that carries a sense of time and process." 

Richard Fleischner
Untitled
2018
gouache on paper
13 1/4 x 14 7/8 inches (33.7 x 37.7 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018
gouache on paper
19 3/8 x 19 1/4 in (49.2 x 48.9 cm)
divider: installation image
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018
gouache on paper
23 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches (59.7 x 59.7 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Gouache
2018-19
gouache on paper
22 5/8 x 30 inches (57.5 x 76.2 cm)
divider - installation view - wall constructions

His latest works in the exhibition are two works from an ongoing series that he started in 2019 of wall-mounted constructions, made of wooden cubes. Fleischner "prioritizes optical engagement over physical comprehension", according to Jennifer Gross, where these works encourage "close looking, intimacy, and detail." 

Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2019
wood and gouache
6 1/2 x 7 1/4 x 3 1/8 inches (16.5 x 18.4 x 7.9 cm)
Richard Fleischner
Untitled Construction
2019
wood, beeswax, and gouache
9 x 6 3/4 x 3 1/4 in. ( 22.9 x 17.1 x 8.3 cm)

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