The artwork brought together and represented in this exhibition was created 40 years ago. The pieces make up not only an important element and part of Bruno Gironcoli´s artistic uvres, but are also informative documents of Austrian history of art in the 20th century. They lend themselves to a larger context that we can call the period of Austrian pop, and also contribute to the phase characterized by an engagement with both "deep psychology" and the phenomenon of Actionism. Gironcoli was regarded as an interior architect along with other artists who together made up an informal group in which Hollein and Pichler also featured. One can place the later Environments in the neighbourhood of Actionism, especially that of Rudolf Schwarzkogler.
Relief is felt at seeing these important works, as one always suspected that Gironcoli, with the exception of his work on paper, constantly made changes to his artwork. These changes had to do with his fluctuating psychical state and wanting alter his message.
The large Bronze table from 1975-1977 and the brass figure from 1969 are both happily complete and make excellent museum pieces, both representing the intention of the artist ideally.
The ensembles of figures belonging to the earlier objects from the beginning of the 1960s, and the later Environments, which distinguish themselves from the figures through their different strategy, are both made complete by the work on paper which, in the uvre of the artist, always possessed differing functions. On the one hand they form concepts, concrete concepts, but using the space on the page they also play with the idea of transferring the 2 dimensional drawings into 3 dimensions, which was not always intended. On the other hand the works on paper also serve as explanations of the Environments, in that they introduce figures that do not appear in the latter, and they determine the course of events in the grotesque "theatre".
The earlier drawings take up simplified forms of furniture, and with their bizarre colourfulness of copper, silver and gold possess an impression of a false quality and a "false awareness". The objects themselves in this exhibition, in particular those decorated with silver that put us in mind of shelves, children´s prams or flower stands from the 1950s, are however, (without a base) still sculptures. They defy their immediate usage and, not unlike the work of Claes Oldenburg, deal with the original object in an ironic manner. In the case of Bruno Gironcoli it is the stifling atmosphere of public narrow mindedness which gives the impulse for the objects, and which is perceptible by the viewer.
When the artist gives the name "Design for a useful Object" (1964) to a drawing he means ironically, precisely the absence of usefulness that the addressed functions do not perform.
These objects stand out decidedly from their surroundings, even when they do not have a base. They speak their own artistic language and unlike the later Environments, use the inclusion of quotes of reality, preventing their integration into our own social reality. Gironcoli combines the objects in his Environments such that they, be it through their function, form or material, always suggest an association with the body, in particular with its sexual functions. This creates a theme of cruelty in which the viewer can imagine himself in the role of a potential victim.
In these works of art, as with all his works, the artist is dealing with his own private problems and obsessions. The individual iconography is not always easy to interpret, it remains open and rooted in the subjective experience of the artist.
The objects become expressions of rituals, that not only reflect individual obsession but also concern themselves with the sadistic and masochistic practices of fascism.
While the earlier objects in this exhibition possess a rather playful and ironic character, here we see a darkened world. That which is grotesque becomes sinister and frightening, the feeling of isolation and the fear of rape increases. This character, this intensity has remained until this day and communicates itself despite the hermetic symbolism of the forms and allusions.
The works of art focused on in this exhibition mark the most significant steps taken by Gironcoli in the 1960s and 70s. They not only document his movement towards the Environments, but also his important role in forming a new sculptural language in the late 20th century.
© Peter Weiermair
Exhibition catalogue text
Plastisches Werk, Arbeiten auf Papier
In the Hofstätter Gallery
10 October - 23 November 2002