Sonnengott, 2008, Oil, sepia on wood, 80 x 80 cm
Dennis Rudolph is an emerging German artist (*1979 in Berlin, based in Berlin) presenting his third soloshow “The Holy War, Part II: Innermost Circle (Necessity)” at the Gallery Jette Rudolph which is regarding its content the prosecution of his show “ The Holy War, Chapter I: The Sacrifice of the Youth” at Perry Rubenstein New York in April 2008.
Four portraits form the heart of the exhibition: these paintings are part of a serie of alltogether 19 portraits which are based on found photographies of anonymous German soldiers and intellectuals of the generation of the 30ties and 40ties. By use of grisaille-technique, they are modelled larger-than-life and appear like pathetically superelevated representations of a fictious “Gallery of German ancestral portraits”. The spirit of fanaticism of their era counterturns from their striking physiognomies, from their resolute, egotistic or deranged gaze. But vainly we look for the well- known badges on their collars: the emblem of their ideology is missing while the names in the work titles are taken from history, art and mythology. Hereby the national socialist content of belief of the “ancestors” is shifted off the recipient’s focus whilst their mimic expression precipitates into the formal marrow of an indefinite “ideal intentness”:
Consequently the striking heads become icons of a non specified denomination. Dennis Rudolph’s typical strategy is the precarious transformation as per description of the portraits above as well as his operation with cultural historically extremely overloaded “explosive material”.
The artist’s altercation with the cultural heritage is also reflected in the formale references within his work: on this note Rudolph refreshes oldmaster-like techniques like painting on panels, etching and linoprint whilst re-interpreting in a contemporary context the historic genres of portrait, ceiling- or landscape painting. The exhibition presents a recent largescaled painting entitled “Fall” which is part of a quadrinomial serie with the headtitle “Eternal Ice: The Four Seasons” referring to romantic landscape allegories we know from C.D.Friedrich: the landscape becomes the medium for a deeper sense- making which allows to decrypt it emblematically. The structure of the seasons is based on cycles referring to periods of life and eras but the framed linocut “Aurora” which is installed above the painting corresponds to the cosmic course of the luminaries. Herein Rudolph’s semiotic vocabulary alike the dead horse, the eternal ice, thewar grave, the column and the eagle as an heraldic animal culminate in abstract archaic symbols like the circle and the triangle. These symbols of a cultural historic connotation are transferred into a more universal significance described in a large- scaled ceiling painting of Baroque Christian tradition: disposed of the subject of Christian salvific history and its Heavenly Hosts a transcendental, illusionistic space opens up above our heads.
The works of Rudolph are characterized by such blank spaces: we find neither the Christian cross nor the swastika. The symbolic charging of the citated allegories and symbols is kept open because all the determinated emblems of faith are from the artist’s pictographic language. Following Jean- Francois Lyotard’s proclamation of the “End of the grand Narrations” and the irrecovable entry into the Postmodernism Rudolph´s work articulate the reversal of the possibility of an embedding into a political, social or religious system. His empty, stormy clouded heaven is the ultimative allegory of this reversal and its overcoming by art.