Robert Rehfeldt (b. 1931, Stargard, Germany – d. 1993, Berlin).
Robert Rehfeldt graduated from the University of the Arts in the Western sector of Berlin in 1953. While working as a freelancer in graphic art and press illustration, he carried on his artistic practice. Since 1963, he was one of the experimental artists in the Eastern part of the city and became a member of the Association of Fine Artists of the GDR. In the first years of the 70s he came into contact with the international Mail Art movement and quickly succeeded in building up an international network, becoming a pioneer of the movement in East Germany.
The time spent studying at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in West Berlin, the encounters with Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and the younger Alexander Camaro, were important stones in the foundation of Robert Rehfeldt’s art. There, he became exposed to art as open action rather than ideology. He was among those who insisted on the freedom of art and who were seen by the National Socialists as degenerate. After the borders were closed, the international penetration of art in eastern Germany, which had grown stronger after 1945, came to an end. Those who wanted to remain artists, after twelve years of persecution and thinning out of the avant-garde, again had to deal with climatic conditions that made the production of art difficult.
Contacts with the West became increasingly difficult. Rehfeldt made in his basement ‘Kontakt-Kunst’, or ‘contact-art’, and used the Deutsche Post to send it across the border. In this regard, he coined the phrase, Dada is dead contart living in your mailbox. Rehfeldt reached out to other Socialist countries such as Hungary and especially Poland, which underwent recent conversions under Stalinist-style dictatorships. From the beginning, Rehfeldt was interested in post-war political art and established contacts with important Polish artists. He gathered almost all the publications of this period in his archive, influences which appear in his collages. Already in the late 1950s, after a phase of Realism that took on metaphysical features under the influence of his painter friend Ernst Schröder, Rehfeldt began to experiment on all levels. Rehfeldt worked abstractly and representationally, as a pop artist, assembler, installer, activist, and cinephile on all fronts of the art movements that did not exist in the GDR. Using a Super 8 camera, Rehfeldt secretly filmed performances, openings, travel diaries and scenes of daily life, accompanied by sound collages he assembled from radio shows during the 1960s which he called “vocal/melodic audio-tape-letters from East to West”.
Through his association with Klaus Groh, he discovered the international Mail Art movement, and Rehfeldt’s studio in Berlin-Pankow thus became an information office on Western art developments for other East Germans. He entered into correspondence-based relationships with artists such as Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, Robert Filliou, Horst Tress and Dick Higgins. In 1975, he asked artists from all over the world to design a postcard and – on the occasion of his own exhibition at the Galeria Teatru Studio in Warsaw – turned it into the first Mail Art exhibition in the GDR. It inspired the legendary Mail Art exhibitions at the East Berlin gallery Arkade in 1978 and at Jürgen Schweinebraden’s EP Gallery in 1979. In this way, Rehfeldt gained crucial importance for the international Mail Art scene. He succeeded in establishing a far-reaching network between Eastern and Western Europe, the USA and Latin America. Later, in 1986, Rehfeldt organized that year’s first ever meeting of the “Discrete International Mail-Art Congress”.
In 1991, shortly after reunification, he presented both his own work and a retrospective from his 1975 Mail Art project at Berlin’s Ephraim Palace. Two years later, on 28 September 1993, he died shortly after undergoing a medical operation in Berlin. Since then his work has featured posthumously in several major exhibitions. In 2008 the “Parterre Gallery” held a retrospective of his work.
1948 – 1953
University of the Arts, West Berlin
2022 (with Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt)
Anti-Social Art: Experimental Practices in Late East Germany, curated by Sara Blaylock and Sarah James, Tweed Museum of Art, Duluth
Denken Sie jetzt bitte nicht an mich (Please do not think of me now), Showroom, ChertLüdde, Berlin
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Johannes Zielke, Berlin
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Kaleidoskop, Trier
Solo Exhibition, Galerie de Media, Eeklo, Belgium
Solo Exhibition, Leonardi-Museum, Dresden
Solo Exhibition, Kunstpavillon, Heringsdorf
Solo Exhibition, Kleine Galerie, Strasburg (Mecklenburg)
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Fliesenwerk, Boizenburg
Solo Exhibition, Galerie im Turm, Berlin
Solo Exhibition, Kneipengalerie Poupol, Cologne
Solo Exhibition, Galerie der Universität, Siegen
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Erph, Erfuhrt
Solo Exhibition, Kleine Galerie Pankow, Berlin
Solo Exhibition (with Ingo Arnold, Martin Hoffmann), Galerie am Prater, Berlin
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Club der Intelligenz, Budapest, Hongry
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Arkade, Berlin
Solo Exhibition (with Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt), Galerie TEATR STUDIO, Warschau
Solo Exhibition, Galerie Siegmundshof, West Berlin
Solo Exhibition, studio community, Erfurt
Organiser of the East Berlin meeting of the 1st Decentralised International Mail Art Congress
1972 – 1987
Director of the circle for drawing and painting “Palette Nord”, creative studio in Berlin-Pankow
In contact with International Mail Art Movement
Catalogue: “Joseph Beuys und die Mail Art in der DDR”, ed. by Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland et.Al., Wohlrab-Verlag, Berlin, ISBN: 978-3-935166-63-8
Catalogue: “Kunst und Kalter Krieg Deutsche Positionen 1945-89”, ed. by Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, Dumont Buchverlag, Cologne, ISBN: 978-8321-9145-0
Catalogue: “Robert Rehfeldt KUNST IM KONTAKT”, ed by Lutz Wohlrab, Verlag Lutz Wohlrab, Berlin.
Catalogue “Kunst in der DDR” by Bettina Schaschke, ed. by Eugen Blume and Roland März, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz und G+H Verlag Berlin, ISBN 3 931768 73 2
“Mail Art in der DDR der 1980er Jahre – Bestandsaufnahmen und kultureller Kontext” by Franziska Block, Siegen.
“Mail Art Eastern Europe in International Network” by Katrin Mrotzek, Guy Schraenen, ed. by Dr. Kornelia von Berswordt-Wallrabe and Staatliches Museum Schwerin, Staatliches Museum Schwerin, ISBN 3-86106-021-3
Catalogue: “Robert Rehfelt”, ed. by Galerie vier and Galerie Zielke, Berlin.
“Visuelle Poesie in der DDR” by Guillermo Deisler and Jörg Kowalski, Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle Leipzig, Leipzig
“R.R.” by Eugen Blume, Leonhardi-Museum, Dresden
“Biennale des Friedens”, Kunsthaus und Kunstverein, Naumberg
“R.R.” by Eugen Blume, Galerie Fliesenwerke, Boizenburg
“Musik in der bildenden Kunst der DDR”, by Hans-Jörg Schirnberck, ed. by Zentrum für Kunstausstellungen der DDR, Berlin
“Künstler in Berlin”, by Lothar Lang, Henschel Verlag Berlin
“Kunst in sozialistischen Staaten” by Karin Thomas, Verlag Idensee Oldenburg
“R.R.”, in: “Sammeln & Sehen”, Galerie Arkade SKH, Berlin
“R. R.”, in: “Realität Foto Grafik Realität. Ingo Arnold, Martin Hoffmann, R. R.”, Galerie am Prater, Berlin
“Sprachen Jenseits von Dichtung”, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Greven, Druckhaus Cramer, Münster
“R.R.”, in: “Von der Collage zur Assemblage. Das Studio 18: Aspekte der Materialkunst in der DDR”, by Thomas Lehner, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.
“Joachim Walther, R.R.s Postkunst”, In: “Mir scheint der Kerl lasiert”, ed. by J. Walther, Henschel Verlag, Berlin, ISBN: BN11876
Catalogue: “Jürgen Schweinebraden”, Galerie Arkade SKH, Berlin