Born in 1974
Lives and works in Zurich, Switzerland
- Mid-century consensus, 2016.
- Real Estate Astrology, 2016.
- FIAC, 2015.
- Point of You, 2012.
- Spagahetti, 2010.
- Ivresse au cognac, 2008.
- David Renggli, 2006.
David Renggli’s practice implies unbalance, and distills the doubt surrounding the permanence of the categories and styles that usually guarantee the validity of our perceptive framework. Fashioning a world populated by fakes, reflections, divided doubles, illusorily unsteady shapes, doctored memories, optical illusions that fool no one, tributes paid to the history of shapes and ideas and then quickly retracted, over the years this art has been capturing reality by means of its stand-in and has been poeticising the “fake”. Fake paintings, fake sculptures, fake photographs, fake objects, false equations—and yet, the artificial attains to something of an autonomous truth, or what could be called authenticity. Images that follow one another in an apparently offhand way seem to have no purpose beyond contradicting themselves. At the heart of this work, behind the sometimes accidental, incomplete and deeply absurd appearances of these assemblages, is the question of calculation, measure or logic: what principle is a work based on, what rule legitimises its presence in the exhibition? These assemblages, both plausible and unreal, in which objects, references and citations proliferate, very often disconcert the viewer, tautologise doubt, reinforce everyday mystifications. David Renggli’s works possess a kind of intrinsic fragility. They do not hide their own limits; they exhibit their faults and incoherence. This aporia of meaning very often unloads a dreamlike, melancholic burden.
Testifying to a reality that has become foreign to us, the work playacts, feigns naivety, to better unsettle viewers taken in by the signifier’s game. The iconoclastic, provocative gestures draw from popular imagery and art history’s classical iconography with equal facility, operating through collages in which new associative spaces take root. What David Renggli’s art plays upon is the permeability and volatility of symbols and materials, which he disseminates with intuitive haphazardness like fragments of memories that superimpose and ultimately cancel each other, as soon as they come into view. Sometimes the forms are so obvious that one cannot help suspecting them of concealing a hidden meaning. But try as the view might to twist the image, to dissect it, to circle it in search of key interpretation hypotheses, very often the work offers nothing more to see than what it shows.
As a worthy child of postmodernist thought, David Renggli plays with contradictions proper to representations of his time, setting up the absurd and the arbitrary as a homogenising principle. In 2004, he created a sculpture: a hand pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and this might be a lapidary formula that sums up the act of creation; reestablishing the arbitrary and the absurd as the roots of the gesture. In answer to the question: “why the rabbit?”, “why not” replaces “because”. This is where the gestures’s real strength resides, in its subversive aspect: it remains, unfailingly, resistant to the laws of natural logic and common sense.
But over time, David Renggli’s art seems to have distanced itself from reality and tended towards the attainment of a kind of sign essence, the forms being simplified with each new installation. From his first photographic works, which attacked the medium’s strictly mimetic aspect, to his monumental volumetric collages, to his strange glossy metallic sculptures, the work has moved in the direction of a more formalist, controlled, sophisticated approach. It has not become more subdued. Seriousness is still only a facade; to create this series of “sculptures”, the artist drew from fashion magazine imagery, extracting a whole repertoire of stereotyped poses of women at fashion shows. These current representations then start resonating with iconography from the history of classical sculpture, itself treated as a repertoire of “type” poses. This association game generates intermingled, abstract forms, which are themselves contorted by the imagination. Here the work bears no direct resemblance to whatever serves as its model. The relationship is not even symbolic, unlike the series of Glass-Paintings, on the surface of which the myth of modernism is reflected more explicitly: when the artist creates fake “modern” abstract paintings, he evokes the history of art, the lyrical abstraction of Hans Hartung and Gérard Schneider, and also why not Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach. Although these human-scale gestural paintings mimic joyful, expressive spontaneity, they are still paintings with no subject, no contents, no soul. It is an optical illusion, a play of transparency, painting that catches your fancy, a desire interface that no longer contains anything more than a caricatural trace of the body. The artist is absent from his work and the work is absent from itself, but the viewer still has to undergo a physical confrontation to test the work’s own limits. And as soon as this has been consciously accepted, the work can, at last, start to exist.