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25  |   P A R
Two-part wall sculpture, 1994
Cut-and-pasted paper on wood
Each part 30 x 300 x 50 cm.


Even before the competition for the Großer Sitzungssaal at Wilhelmstraße 60 had been decided, in which I was participating with  my Raumwerk ARK, I began work on this piece, using the primary forms of that larger work’s wall sculpture. By “primary forms” I mean its box- or casket-like oblong shapes, each measuring 30 x 300 x 50 centimeters, which are arranged in pairs designed to be mounted on the wall horizontally, parallel, and at a distance of twenty centimeters to one another, either completely flush with each other or staggered by a remove of forty centimeters to the left or right.

Wall sculpture on the long east wall of the Raumwerk ARK.

In each of these possible configurations, the forms appear to hover before the surface of the wall, either creating an equals sign or suggesting dynamic motion: more or less dynamic, depending on the direction in which the forms are staggered, since the suggestion of motion seems greater when the upper form is farther to the right than the lower. This apparently has to do with the fact that—as Rudolf Arnheim expounds in his Art and Visual Perception (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1954/1974)—“pictures” are read from left to right, the viewer identifying with, and inwardly positioning himself on, the left side of said picture. From this virtual stance, he views the right side: a phenomenon Arnheim sees explained by the dominance of the left cerebral cortex, which contains the brain’s higher centers for speech, writing, and reading. Accordingly, pictorial movement from left to right is perceived as requiring less effort; conversely, movement from right to left is seen as progressing more slowly—which may, in turn, go some way in explaining the directional bias of our writing conventions.

While the work’s title, PAR, employs Martin Luther’s spelling of the German word now written Paar (English “pair”), it is nevertheless so versatile as a three-letter vocable—both as a preposition in French, and as a substantive, adjective, and verb in English—that it would be a shame to restrict it to a purely German-language interpretation. Its various usages in all three tongues have the concept of relationship in common: the spatial and temporal bearing of words, things, and creatures on one another. Consequently, my intentions here find their most concise linguistic expression in the classical roots of the word par and the prefix par(a)-, to wit “equal, equality” and “beside, beyond, past, by,” respectively.

In marked contrast to the black surfaces of the Raumwerk ARK’s box-like shapes, which were given their impeccable, mirror-like “piano finish” in a professional paint shop—and are hence variegated only by the reflections that they produce of their surroundings—those of PAR are differentiated in their overall patterning and texture, articulated in the collage technique I have employed, off and on, since 1980. Here in PAR, where the forms embody one pair of the beasts and fowls taken by Noah into the Ark in “sevens” of “the male and his female,” I used this technique on three-dimensional forms—for the first and only time—upon which the paper “nap” suggests stylized fur, scales, or feathers. On the upper “body” of the two, the mosaic-like arrangement of “black” paper rectangles traces upright stripes on the form’s three vertical faces and horizontal stripes on its two long lateral faces ; on the lower “body,” the disposition of patterns is reversed.