Inconspicuous things from the urban space such as exhaust air shafts and electrical boxes are often the starting point of Rita McBride’s sculptural pieces. Her very divergent work complexes bearing titles like Machines, Managers and Minimanagers, Keys, Panels, Awnings, Skylights or Parking Structures are concerned with the characteristics and intersection points of industrial design, minimalist sculpture, modernist architecture, public spaces and the gaps they generate. She occupies herself in her artistic practice with society’s underlying structures and systems that imperceptibly control us, organising movement and conduct between the individual and the collective.
McBride’s work is at once based on the traditions of Minimal Art and institutional critique. The expansive sculptures and installations dating from the time between 1997 and 2015 in the exhibition at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf demonstrate the breadth of her artistic practice. For McBride, the objects she produces are just as important as the processes and situations from which they emerged. The interrelationship between architecture and art makes up a part of a complex system in which political and cultural power structures are questioned and challenged.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Rita McBride’s Arena (1997), which fills the Kunsthalle’s entire cinema space. The modular push-fit system in the form of an amphitheatre consists of a complex layering of plywood and Twaron. Arena is a functional sculpture that serves as the venue for a program developed by the artist. It has toured the world like a rock band since its inception. As a meeting place it is large to encompass circa 200 persons and has previously hosted over 100 artists, musicians, and politicians. Insofar as Arena is both a sculpture and a functional structure, it turns the visitors and the institution itself into a part of the exhibition. McBride often works in collectives and with Arena she has generated a continuously developing form of collaborative work.
McBride’s sculptural, installative, performative, and journalistic oeuvre gave rise to a new very complex concept of sculpture that once more puts the social role of art up for discussion. Her concept of the work of art, which has also incorporated literature and performance since the early 1980s, makes her particularly interesting for a younger generation of artists.
Rita McBride (born 1960 in Des Moines, Iowa) has been a professor of sculpture since 2003 at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, which she has also headed as its director since 2013. Her works have been shown for example in solo exhibitions at the Wiener Secession (2000), the Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (2008), and in the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2014).
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue: Rita McBride. Public Works 1988 – 2015, 354 pages, Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne. Price in the exhibition: 25 Euro.
Exhibition and catalogue are a cooperation with the kestnergesellschaft, Hannover.