Ruth Francken

Born 1924 Ruth Steinreich, in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Died 2006 in Paris, France.

Born in Prague and exiled in Vienna during the interwar years, Ruth Francken took painting classes with Arthur Segal in Oxford, and lived in New York from 1940 to 1950, receiving American nationality, before settling in Paris in 1952. Francken’s career was marked by her uprooted life and early frustration with the medium of painting. In Paris, her work was associated with art informel, but her dissatisfaction with abstract expressionism’s model and her own paintings led her to abandon the medium in 1964. While in Berlin on a grant she started experimenting with sculpture, soon turning toward the ordinary language of industrial objects, privileging metal and creating works at the border between painting and sculpture. Her work from 1967 to the early 1970s is marked by an obsession with technology, as developed in her series of photo-metallic reliefs and collages. The incorporation of industrial objects in her practice associated her with pop artists, despite her desire to escape any categorisation, her prime interest in industrial language lying in its conflictual relationship to art.

Breaking the boundaries between sculpture and functional object, Man Chair 1971 was directly plaster cast on a male model. The industrial plastic object thus retains a bodily texture, which questions the relationship between artworks and manufactured products. The hybridity of this anthropomorphic, faceless chair turns the idealised male body into a mass-produced, functional object. It also blurs the boundaries between model and artwork, both being amalgamated in this work.

Elsa Coustou
September 2015