Michael Riedel, the very tall, very thin German artist represented by David Zwirner Gallery, might just be the nicest artist at the friendliest booth at The Armory Show. And since his work takes over David Zwirner's prime location right near the entrance of Pier 94, in full-view of the champagne bar, he might just be the show's star as well. Of course, it's not just a good location that makes his work stand out. The pieces themselves, created specifically for the Armory booth, stand apart from their surroundings. Unlike most of what I saw at the Armory, Riedel's three pieces—riffs on magazine layout design—are black and white and entirely graphic.
He uses InDesign to create a patchwork of page layouts, but he insists that he's not a designer and has absolutely no design background. "Everyone has been asking me that," he laughs as he walks me through the pieces he has on display. For text material he uses recordings, press clippings, found text—anything is fair game. "I need text but I don't want to think about what to write...I could use this interview right now," he says. In the past he's transcribed a recording of the conversations at the entrance of a nightclub as well as a transcription of his arrest after he attempted to steal money that was on display at a museum in Frankfurt. He's also used safer sources, like the text from an invitation for a book presentation. "Text and image are the same to me," he explains.
Once he has a page completed, he flips and rotates it, creating a pattern he repeats until he fills most of a large, poster-sized piece of paper that is then mounted. Though the stark graphics are eye-catching on their own—thin lines of text punctuated by fat, black geometrical shapes—they create beguiling, unexpected forms when patched together. Blank spaces on the page become soft white clouds left behind by dissipating bits of text. A paragraph break goes unnoticed on its own, but after its repeated across three feet of paper it takes on new characteristics.
All these moments are unplanned. "I'm not even using a technique," Riedel says. Why this form, then? "For me it was necessary to deal with graphics, because my material for painting is information or communication, and these two things normally come as graphic design, so that's why I'm using this style." These poster prints and the poster paintings in "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog," his latest exhibition at David Zwirner, are the result of a long search for "an answer in painting. I was working for two years to find out what this could be, and I think the poster painting is really it."
But now that he's found his answer, Riedel is ready to move on and return to his roots in stage design. "I would like to come back to theatre with my texts," he says. As he's looking back to where he first began, it's actually a fitting time for his first retrospective, which you can see at Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt from June 15 - September 9, 2012.