Throughout history, mankind has been fascinated by the mysteries and satisfaction of re-creating sculptural images that cleverly interpret the human shape. Caves discovered in the south of France show a recognizable yet primitive attempt at forming clay into figures. No pyramid in Egypt was ever considered complete unless the buried Pharaoh was surrounded by a virtual army of warriors in miniature, which hopefully would provide protection during a first class flight to the hereafter. So as humankind progressed educationally and culturally, the interpretation of a three-dimensional shape was developed and refined until it truly reflected a life-size mirror image of an individual.
Realism continued into the late18th century, and then artists began to slightly abstract the figure -- for example, Rodin's Balzac -- in a way that was recognizable, but also was a challenge to their creativity. As a young man, Picasso became intrigued with carved African sculpture that he discovered in Paris. Inspired by its abstracted appearance, Picasso later incorporated this concept into his figures, which became a pioneering step that laid the foundation for modern sculptors.
Rainer Lagemann picked up the tradition that Pablo Picasso began and is running with this baton in hand, allowing him to explore the rich and exciting environment of highly abstracted figurative sculpture. He has an inventive and innovative iconic style, fashioned from hundreds of cut metal squares that he precisely welds together to form a whole.
Rainer has been fascinated with and continually inspired by the interpretative possibilities inherent in the human body, which has remained a classic theme throughout history, and until the last 100 years, literally was the only subject matter that an artist would tackle as a sculptural challenge. Rainer seems to test himself on each work he makes, stretching the limits of his unusual medium to almost magically form a recognizable figure that alternately seems to be frozen in time, caught in stop action motion, climbing, standing, bending, sitting, stretching, swaying, swimming, flying, throwing, hanging on and certainly on the run, offering the viewer a banquet of the virtually unlimited circumstances the artist invents to stimulate and challenge his creativity.
Perhaps taking a cue from Cubism, he puts together metal squares (cubes), positioning them inside the walls of a life-sized plaster cast of a model and attaching each one by one. As Lagemann begins to connect the metal geometric forms he is able to make decisions along the way and slightly alter his course of action, which brings freshness to the shapes and allow for chance and juxtaposition. Often the individual squares are pushed and pulled in all directions; some are perpendicular to the base, while others balance on their edge like a diamond in the rough and seem to slowly drift downward, as if they were geometric snowflakes stuck to each other.
Over time, the artist has developed a natural system of connecting the dots so that certain areas "float" into the same direction, offering a natural flow as though you were looking down on a flock of birds that naturally fly together and form a whole. Depending on the dynamics of the figure, as in his rock climber series, Rainer is able to build these sculptures without a complete shape, as one half of the form melts into the wall. Here, he can take liberties with a series of deliberate empty spaces that also fashion their own geometric patterns. In fact, the figures that cling to the walls as they make their way upward expose a kind of swirling DNA structure from shoulder to toe.
After a careful review and detailed inspection of the artist's recent works, one also discovers that many of the sculptures develop their own personality, seemingly connected to the specific shape of each one of them. Some of the works, such as Pool Diver, also seem to display an arm's length connection to other artists who have created images with similar figurative poses, bringing to mind David Hockney's famous swimming pool series, painted while he was a Southern California resident. The image of Pool Diver 's red-painted steel swimmer gliding underwater, complete with ripples that distort the figure's edges, has a delightful connection to the essence of abstraction that certainly is emphasized here. The gravity-defying Cliff Diver takes a cue from the work of the aforementioned favorite, Gormley -- a delicately balanced form floats effortlessly like a paper airplane -- and would be an exciting symbol for the summer Olympics, as well as Lagemann's Discus Thrower, whose convincing athletic posture ready to spin makes a winning combination.
In either case, Rainer Lagemann has taken the best from art history and contemporary inspiration and has welded it together -- literally -- to develop a dramatic hybrid of recognizable abstraction to form a conceptual design that is fresh and singularly iconic.
Works by Rainer Lagemann can be seen at DTR Modern Galleries, 458 West Broadway, New York, telephone: 212.677.2802, www.dtrmodern.com.