For its first participation in Art Basel Feature, the gallery presented the artist Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt. Born in Wurzen, Saxony, in 1932, she moved to Berlin in 1950, where she still lives today.
The solo presentation aimed to display a comprehensive overview of her work and it is the result of a long and intense immersion into her archive. It intended to establish the importance of this unique artist, not only to the present day, but also to the precise political context and time to which she and her work belong.
After moving to Berlin she married artist Robert Rehfeldt and she was employed by the exhibitions department at the Academy of Arts. A few years later she started to develop what would become her typical typewriter graphics, and became an active participant in the international Mail Art movement.
The works presented in the exhibition are part of her Typewritings series, all produced between the early 1970s and 1989. During these years, her practice – in particular her Mail Art activity – was directed to sustain an otherwise im- possible contact with the world outside the GDR. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dramatic geopolitical changes later effected by the reunification – most importantly the freedom of movement of the former citizens of the GDR – she felt her involvement was no longer “needed” and completely stopped her artistic practice.
The presentation featured the original typewriter works, which were often produced using carbon copy paper in order to reproduce more copies of the original sample. She then made Zincographic copies (zinc lithographs) of the motifs (no more than 50 copies of each, the maximum she was allowed to produce in the GDR): these were produced in many different formats, but mainly had to be small enough to allow her to send them by post and easily distribute them through Mail Art circuits. Along with these works are the Collages, that she started to create in the 1980s, modifying and adding to her own Zincographies. Finally, her Mail Art Collaborations, presented as a slide show reproduction of works that she sent to other artists which, upon her request, would be “interfered” with and sent back to her.
On the back wall of the stand a wallpaper reproduced in 1:1 scale the whole archive or Mail Art that she has received from artists all over the world, with whom she has been corresponding.
The presentation was accompanied by a catalogue where an extensive body of work is reproduced in original size. Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, “Signs Fiction”, published by Chert and Motto Books, 2016, with a text by Zanna Gilbert, edited by Jennifer Chert, designed by Till Gathmann. Printed by Cassochrome, Belgium.
All Photos: Andrea Rossetti