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Ilona Ruegg: Barbara Gross Galerie.

The strengths of Ilona Ruegg's method are her particular way of combining drawing with mixed media and the manipulation of space. Although drawing is at the center of her artmaking, Ruegg often incorporates it into site-specific projects. Her recent exhibition entitled "Slippage" left viewers with the impression that every detail had been carefully thought through. She managed, for example, to present a large number of drawings without having to hang the images too close together, by setting four wooden strips over one another on opposite walls in two rooms connected by an open door. Onto these strips she placed drawings, which were then held in place by somewhat larger, but unclamped sheets of glass. It was obviously important that the arrangement appear loose and flexible, and that the sheets of drawings could be quickly and easily switched, while the different sized glass and wooden strips created an open structure that contrasted with the way drawings are often matted and framed.

The central motif in "Slippage" was the shower stall. Ruegg is particularly interested in this structure as an enclosure within another space, a familiar domestic site, and a place of intimacy. Ruegg depicted the same stall three times in black and once in white outline on a black ground. Both of the works entitled "Les cabines" (cabins) on the other hand, contained three versions of stalls in red. The objects in the picture create, as these and other works show, the possibility of invoking the relationship between art and everyday reality. As though to underline these relationships, Ruegg stretched four black ropes through the rooms of the gallery, and she hung from these ropes "soft" shower stalls (made of a variety of materials, from polystyrene to silicon paper and rubber), as though they had been "hung out to dry." Here she made use of an distancing device familiar from the work of Claes Oldenburg, achieving a highly playful effect through her handling of a variety of materials. The two paintings that were on view here were also based on a certain degree of distortion and a superimposition of layers, as Ruegg used a scraper to blur color and to obscure some planes while exposing others.

Ruegg's manner of suggesting surprising relationships eventually seemed, however, to take on more relevance than her ostensible subject matter. She created so many different layers that content was lost in the process, as contradictory procedures formed a cryptic network of signs. This effect, however, was counterbalanced by the show's provocative meditations on privacy and intimacy.

- Justin Hoffmann

Translated from the German by David Jacobson.
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Author:Hoffmann, Justin
Publication:Artforum International
Date:Oct 1, 1996
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