Thomas Grünfeld

-> Works in the Exhibition


Kathrin Luz

Vacation in Sansevieria with Thomas Grünfeld

Piles of ocher-colored cushions nestle on the floor; slightly grimy as if heavily used, brown-red rough leather adorns the walls; prickly sansevieria plants ensnarl the tender scents of the 1950s. Welcome to the kingdom of collective memories. Thomas Grünfeld, born in 1956 in Opladen, carefully inventories memories of late modernism’s chronically smoothed functionality, of function-driven reconstruction during the economic miracle, of a specific, long-extinguished attitude from German post-war inwardness. Grünfeld’s works in the collection, Untitled (Polstertisch) (1987) and Untitled (Polster, zweiteilig) (1987), testify to this.

The artist as a child-like historical witness: here, one still lived cheerily within one’s own four walls; here, the living room was considered the epitome of fine cultural life; here, middle-class comfort was cultivated as the secure sphere of private illusions — probably motivated by the return to the roots of their own identity. In addition, residing directly next door, the uncomfortable neighbor: irony. Spotlight on: In Grünfeld’s constructions, his iconography of interiors skillfully play with pure functionality, symbolic meaning and subjectivity.

The large wall-pieces of heavy, darkly framed leather upholstery over a counter (Putting, 1986), function both as images and as commentary on the eccentric, couch-potato comfort of the men’s club atmosphere from a former era. The furor of décor in petit-bourgeois happiness; the longing for the home of the ugly: an indefinable upholstery, an ensemble of tables and stools are flanked by a potted plant (as in Polstertisch). One does not want to accept the invitation to sit and relax. Despite the absence of people, lurking in the arrangement is the terror of the family, which in reality is not uncommonly a social terror resounding in psychological dimensions. The familiar is coupled with the disconcerting.

The Drei großen Braunen (1988), elongated, vertically suspended felt drapes, refer to the felt curtains that hang inside barroom doors and guard against the draughty cold. Here, Beuys’s famous felt seems like a relict of a specific cultural and psychological-historical life-praxis.

Artistically upholstered, washable, and smooth: its further development can be found in the works with rubber, which the artist himself affectionately dubbed as “vomit spills”. They have decisively overcome the idea of a foundation. Radical abstractions of earlier works, like rigid concentrations of form, the flat plastic drips and spots of color lie tired and worn on the floor. And yet, they irritate with their sensual appeal; Hans Michael Herzog imaginatively describes these sculptural phenomena: “On the one hand, the lightly swelling rubber bodies, in their aesthetically complete form, is inviting to the tactile sense (the desire to touch their surface is tempting); on the other hand, the hermetic impenetrability of the pneumatic, upholstered ‘rubbers’ has a psychologically threatening effect (we expect that their latent energy, carefully encapsulated, will explode at any minute and an alien will jump out),”[1]  Despite their disgust-provoking connotation: the rubber pictures seem nicely soft and pliable, like the blurred body of a faceless being. At the same time, they are under a strange tension; they could explode at any moment. [...]

Catalog excerpt "Extended. Sammlung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg"
Editors: Lutz Casper, Gregor Jansen, published by Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, 2009


Works in the Exhibition

Thomas Grünfeld
ohne Titel (Polstertisch) ohne Titel (Polster/zweiteilig), 1987

untitled (Cushion Table) untitled (Cushion/two parts)
Bolster, glass, and plant
35 x 125 x 125 cm je 40 x 40 x 40 cm

Thomas Grünfeld
ohne Titel, 1990

Wood, leather, aluminum, caouchouc, and glass
100 x 300 x 35 cm

Thomas Grünfeld
Eye-Painting, 1995

Glass eyes and epoxy resin on canvas
120 x 120 x 5 cm

Thomas Grünfeld
ohne Titel, 1997

Caoutchouc, foam rubber, and wood
20 x 180 x 120 cm

Thomas Grünfeld
misfit (Giraffe/Strauß/Pferd), 2000

misfit (Giraffe/Ostrich/Horse)
210 x 130 x 80 cm