Gerwald Rockenschaub’s Linear, Hyper-Logical Abstract Art

  • Installation view of “Gerwald Rockenschaub: bend it” at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich. Courtesy of Galerie Eva Presenhuber and the artist.

The tone of Gerwald Rockenschaub’s work has long struck a balance between extreme material specificity and high-concept design. Rockenschaub, one of the most renowned living Austrian artists, has said his work always has “something to do with production conditions that lead to certain consequences and create a certain state of mind.” Such a linear thought process may not be surprising given the designer’s other practices, which include composing and DJing stripped-down techno music. 

When the term “neo-geo” (also known as neo-geometric conceptualism) originated in the ’80s to describe a particular form of abstraction used in the service of social critique, Rockenschaub, then in his 30s, was one of the genre’s central figures. The two principles he is primarily concerned with are “radical reduction” and “concentration.” He often uses both to reduce the bright colors and hard edges of commercial culture to their simplest forms.

Other figures in the neo-geo movement incorporated shapes resembling circuit boards; Rockenschaub, however, was one of the first of his generation to integrate computers into his design process. Carefully shaping his expansive paintings and art objects digitally, the artist called on material-specific builders and craftsmen to construct the works to spec. This fondness for conventions of industrial design—and its signature materials: aluminum, plexiglass, and PVC—shows up in the names of Rockenschaub’s pieces, which always include highly detailed technical specifications.

  • Installation view of “Gerwald Rockenschaub: bend it” at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich. Courtesy of Galerie Eva Presenhuber and the artist.

Lately, Rockenschaub has focused heavily on plexiglass; recent shows mounted colored layers of the translucent plastic into painting-like wall pieces. For “bend it,” his ninth solo exhibition with Galerie Eva Presenhuber, the artist has affixed his signature materials directly to the gallery walls, creating a site-specific optical illusion that at times collapses the boundaries between two- and three-dimensional space. For “bend it,” colored plates of plexiglass adorn one long gallery wall; at once familiar and abstract, the shapes recall the colors of early video games and the slickness of minimalistic design. Along the opposite wall, massive ghostly white rectangles tumble against each other, barely perceptible against the white gallery walls.


—M. Osberg


bend it” is on view at Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, Nov. 7, 2015–Jan. 23, 2016.

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