Prototype for Revolving Vane is the original model used by Charlotte Posenenske to create a series of box-like constructions in the form of a room, articulated and open to various arrangements and configurations. It is made with plain particle board, marked in some places with graffiti. The door-like elements can be revolved on a vertical axis and were originally designed to be manipulated by the viewer. The Revolving Vanes can be reproduced ad infinitum, making this prototype an extremely rare example of an original, historic object constructed by Posenenske.
Born in 1930 in Wiesbaden, Posenenske trained with Willi Baumeister and, during her short career, worked in Frankfurt am Main. Her early work of 1959–60 reflects her constructivist training and consists predominantly of paintings and works on paper. These geometric abstractions took on an increasingly industrial appearance both in their serial production and use of commercial paints over the decade. From the mid-1960s Posenenske began to make both wall relief objects and free standing sculpture that fully realised her increasing interest in systems and structures derived from mass production and standardisation. She also began to incorporate an element of interactivity – both choreographed and open to audience participation – into the construction and placement of her work, a practice that was innovative at the time.
Posenenske was influenced by American minimalism, which she became aware of during visits to New York in the early 1960s, and through her close association with the German dealer Paul Maenz and his partner, the structuralist filmmaker Peter Roehr. In the US Posenenske’s work was acknowledged and reviewed within the context of minimalism. In 1968 Posenenske withdrew from the practice of making art in order to study sociology and made no subsequent works.
Posenenske’s concept of art was democratic, reflected in her use of unlimited, reproducible editions. The active role given to the ‘consumer’ again emphasises the participatory aspect of her work. In 1968, shortly before giving up artmaking, she published a text in Art International in which she noted that:
The things I make/are variable/as simple as possible/reproducible. They are components of a space, since they are like/building elements,/they can always be rearranged into new combinations or positions/thus, they alter the space./ I leave this alteration to the consumer who thereby again and anew participates in the creation.
(Posenenske 1968, in Adamopoulos 2005, p.48.)
Posenenske’s Square Tubes Series D 1967 are also in the Tate collection (Tate T12772, T12774, T12775, T12777 and T12778). This series of sculptural objects are part of an ongoing, uneditioned series of factory-made objects which have been reproduced according to the artist’s plan since 1967. The objects are composed of a variety of hollow forms made from galvanised steel sheeting. Like Revolving Vane they are reproducible, but can also be arranged into different configurations. While other artists of the period were working in multiples that were nonetheless limited to a finite edition, Posenenske worked in series, removing any limitations and parallelling the process of industrial production. For Posenenske the ‘series’ referred to a succession of versions following the same principle, as well as the infinite reproducibility of the archetype and the multiple presentation of the same type of model.
Charlotte Posenenske, ‘Statement’, Art International, no. 5, May 1968, reprinted in Konstantin Adamopoulos, Charlotte Posenenske, Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen 2005, p.48.
Renate Wiehager (ed.), Charlotte Posenenske, 1930–1985, Berlin 2009.
Charlotte Posenenske/Peter Roehr: The Same Thing Another Way/Always the Same Thing, exhibition catalogue, Kunsthaus Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden 2012.
Jessica Morgan and Lucy Askew