'In Rudolf Stingel's work, the parameters of painting and architecture are turned inside out. The traditional qualities of painting - pictorialism, flatness, illusion, composition, and autonomy - become corrupted by a new symbolic framework, in which paintings metamorphoses - sometimes literally, sometimes through association-into a fragment of rococo wallpaper or stucko work, a mirrored floor, a thick rectangle of Styrofoam trampled by footprints, an oversized photograph, or a dirty carpet. Stingel's disclosures produce a disturbing sense of artifice -- an un-natural state that, in the nineteenth century, was deemed decadent'
(C. Iles, 'Surface Tension',Rudolf Stingel, Chicago, 2007, p. 14).
The lustrous golden surface of Rudolph Stingel's magnificent Untitled work from 2007 is a beautiful example of his wide-ranging oeuvre in which he tries to expand the established conventions of art and make it relevant for today's contemporary audience. Consisting of a series of rich vertical stripes of glittering gold interspersed with alternating bands of textured white pigment, Untitled resembles the ornate handmade wallpaper that dominated large country houses in Georgian England. The purity of its geometric rhythm is enhanced by the alternating textures of the stripes, with Stingel switching with considerable ease from the near-polished smoothness of the gold to the delicate ridged texture of its neighbouring stripes. These alternating bands of gold and white, smoothness and texture imbue the surface of the work with an all-over glistening sheen that reflects the light with astonishing vivacity.
In Untitled Rudolf Stingel challenges head on the modernist opposition to decoration, presenting this stylized wallpaper inspired work as a freestanding abstract painting. Explaining his choice of subject matter, Stingel drolly explained, 'artists have always been accused of being decorators, so I just went to the extreme and painted the wallpaper' (R. Stingel quoted by L. Yablonsky, 'The Carpet that Ate Grand Central' in The New York Times, 27 June 2004). This particular decorative vocabulary relates to Stingel's roots, as he grew up in the Italian Tyrol and Vienna, and was exposed at an early age to their histories of Baroque and Rococo art. Taking this decorative impulse as a starting point, he creates a large-scale abstraction that also engages a Minimalist-like commitment to seriality. Created by painting onto the canvas through a layer of patterned tulle in a quasi-mechanical way, the composition stresses tireless repetition but also reveals subtle individuation in the uneven application of the paint. While the familiar pattern might at first appear to be a merely familiar fragment of a wall covering associated with another era, upon closer inspection the painting reveals itself to be spatially ambiguous, as the variations of gold paint tones push and pull against each other to create a scintillating effect. In this way, Stingel's work alludes to the complex spatial interplay of Baroque art, but with a distinctly contemporary twist.
Stingel's body of work, spanning many mediums over the past two decades, is particularly admired for the way in which it ties together many of the most relevant currents of today's contemporary art world - the extremes of abstraction and photo-realism, a sharp sense of provocation, reverence for both beauty and conceptual rigor, and frequent elements of social participation. Rudolf Stingel's art has consistently pressed against the limits of what can be considered painting for the past two decades. To this end, Stingel has employed an eclectic range of unexpected materials such as shag carpet, sheets of Styrofoam and aluminium panelled walls - each time transforming them into an expanded notion of what painting can be. With equal parts sly humour and aesthetic savvy, he offers the viewer what appears to be simply a panel of brocade wallpaper.
Like the German artist Gerhard Richter, Stingel's work deals with the ongoing battle in contemporary art between the traditions of abstraction and figuration. Whereas Richter's blurred photo-paintings have been seen by some scholars as a way to overcome the historical limitations of figurative painting, Stingel's work has been regarded as a new approach and a way to fill the gap between the two traditions, 'Stingel creates a transitive way to recede from abstraction into the subject and to push the subject into a different kind of time. While Richter's blur is an anticipation of a forthcoming , more radical disappearance of the subject, Stingel's impressions left by the pattern of the fabric or the soles of the boots are the same as the impression left by the subject on the canvas" (F. Bonami, 'Introduction', Rudolph Stingel, Chicago, 2007, p. 14).
The painterly facade of Untitled offers pure and immediate visual delight with its upright bands of golden paint shimmering with a range of ineffable effects. Through a veil of glistening light that varies in its effect from luxurious reflection to a hazy mist, the surface gracefully demonstrates the complexity of its own creation. Yet Stingel uses this aesthetic gratification as a lure to ensnare the viewer in what is actually a conceptually rooted construction. This work demonstrates clearly why Stingel is celebrated for his exploration of the process of painting. The rich variety displayed across the surface of this large work combines the minimalist, conceptual and performative practices for which his work is so rightly admired. SJ