Born in Essen in 1947, Meuser is a representative figure of German minimal art. In 1992 he joined Karlsruhe’s Academy of Fine Arts as a teacher and, the same year, was invited by Jan Hoet (art historian and founder of the SMAK in Ghent, Belgium) to take part in Documenta IX in Kassel (Germany).
The works he will be presenting in Brussels are in the same radical vein as those shown under the title “Tout va bien – Alles in Butter” in his first exhibition for the Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris in 2007.
Meuser’s first exposure to the French public occurred in 1986 when, invited by Christian Bernard, he contributed to a group exhibition on avant-garde abstract painting during the years 1970–1980 at the Villa Arson in Nice. Four years later, this former pupil of Joseph Beuys and Erwin Heerich at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf returned to the Villa in Nice for a year’s residence that ended with a programmatic exhibition called “Le Désenchantement du monde”. Meuser exhibited alongside Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997) who, with Blinky Palermo (1943–1977), was one of Meuser’s principal points of reference.
During the years of Beuys’ teaching, painting was taboo, according to Meuser, who remembered that a sort of “Russian, workmanlike” reigned. It provided Meuser, who grew up in the Ruhr and had his artistic education at the Folkwang Museum in his hometown, with the chance to reflect on the principles of the Russian Constructivists from Malevich to Mondrian, whose influence is apparent even in his current works.
In parallel, the American minimalist school also had a deep influence on Meuser, who admired Ellsworth Kelly (born 1923) for “the rigorous opening up of the pictorial format in the way the American can do, the same way as Donald Judd with his boxes”(1).
Meuser collects metal objects from city dumps that he recycles into sculptures. The critic and journalist Céline Piettre rightly states that “the objects that Meuser collects during his wanderings carry within them a personal history: that of his birthplace, the bastion of the all-powerful steel-manufacturing industry of West Germany, and the history of his father, a steel-worker in the local factory” (2). She adds that “behind their abstract forms, the artist’s works are pieces of autobiographical – but also social and collective – reality. The pieces of metal, whose past functionality we deduce but cannot identify, are remnants of our material culture, and symbols of the mechanization of production and widespread consumerism ”(3).
The weight of the materials used contrasts strongly with the lightness of his compositions. Balanced in the air or hanging on the white walls of the gallery, Meuser’s sculptures all have a powerfully pictorial component.
The metal is always painted, even when the colour chosen imitates rust. The whiteness of the walls is used like the blank canvas of a painter, and Meuser’s geometric and polychrome constructions rival Mondrian’s abstract paintings.
The colour is energized by the play of light and shadow created by the crushed metal, like that of used tins. Combined with the subtle rapport of the textures of the materials, this vibrancy is a reminder that Meuser’s art is not so minimal as is at first apparent. It is not infrequent that “the rectilinear and orthogonal grammar sometimes harmonizes with the boldness of a curve or intrepid dynamism of a diagonal”(3).
Therein resides an affinity with the Neue Wild and artists around his friend Martin Kippenberger during the 1970s, to whom Meuser admits to having been close primarily on a spiritual level.
His recent works to be exhibited in the Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Brussels demonstrate the permanence and power of an artistic trajectory that, without ever compromising with decorativeness, asserts itself once again through its palpable plastic power.
1 Meuser, in cat. Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, 2008, p.138
2 & 3 Céline Piettre, Paris-Art (website), 24 Nov. 2007
3 Céline Piettre, Paris-Art (website), 24 Nov. 2007