March 31, 2015 - Kunsthalle Bielefeld - Esther Kläs and Johannes Wald
March 31, 2015

Esther Kläs and Johannes Wald

Whatness. Esther Kläs. Johannes Wald, 2015. Exhibition view, Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 2015. Photo: Ingo Busmann. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2015.

Esther Kläs. Johannes Wald

28 March–21 June 2015

Opening: 27 March, 19h

Kunsthalle Bielefeld
Artur-Ladebeck-Straße 5 
33602 Bielefeld

T +0049 (0) 521 329995017
info [​at​]

In spring 2015 the Kunsthalle Bielefeld presents an exhibition featuring the works of two young sculptors, Esther Kläs and Johannes Wald. The exhibition will be shown under the unusual title of Whatness. Coined by James Joyce, the word “whatness” translates the philosopher’s Thomas Aquinas’s concept of quidditas into English. It deals with the essence of a thing, its nature, as opposed to the existence of a thing. Consequently, it inquires into what an object is.

As the title for this show, Whatness emphasizes the commonalities shared by the works of the two young sculptors Esther Kläs and Johannes Wald. Their sculptures reflect the material qualities of sculpture and the processes used to make them, as well as the essence of a sculpture and its effect upon viewers. They formulate the question: what is this three-dimensional thing there? The works of art by these two artists shift back and forth in their own ways between figurative motifs and abstraction, the interplay between form and material, and the objects’ rejection of interpretation. It is only through active participation and an indeterminate space for imagination that they are revealed to the viewer: “Beauty…is beheld by the imagination,” says Joyce.

Johannes Wald and Esther Kläs are collaborating on the show at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, creating an installation that allows their sculptures to enter into a dialogue with each other. The artist Esther Kläs is often described as a “born sculptor.” Born in 1981 in Mainz, Germany, she now lives and works in New York. Even though most of her sculptures are abstract, they evoke anthropomorphic physicalities or ancient ritualistic sites. They radiate dignity and personality, while developing a beguiling sense of naturalness in the space. They oscillate between a mysterious presence and projections of poetic imagination. The close connection between the works and the artist who makes them is always present. Kläs accentuates the process of making her sculptures by leaving the traces of her physical work on the material. The charm of improvisation is as much an effect of her works as the tendency toward the absurd is.

Johannes Wald formulates questions for sculpture. For Wald, primarily sculptural qualities such as texture, material, and three-dimensionality are of secondary importance. He is mainly interested in revealing conditions, methods of making sculpture, and the process of transforming an idea into material. He takes various approaches to his search for the perfect sculpture and a sense of naturalness as a sculptor. In studying the greeks’ grace he examines the essay “Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke in der Malerei und Bildhauerkunst” (Thoughts on imitating the works of the Greeks in painting and sculpture) by the archeologist and art critic Johann Joachim Winckelmann, written in 1755. It considers Greek sculpture to be the most perfect, and the author recommends that his contemporaries imitate it. Wald takes this advice more than 250 years later and applies it to his own works of art. The result, however, is not a modeled sculpture. Rather, through the medium of photography it refers to the subjectivity of the personal experience of grace, and the imaginary space for an extremely beautiful figure. In a similar way, his Ekphrasis uses words to create a linguistic presentation of an idealized sculpture, while Pedestal for a Muse has an empty space that provokes an attitude of expectation toward the appearance of a muse.

The show is sponsored by the Kunststiftung NRW and the Kulturstiftung pro Bielefeld.

Exhibition curator: Friedrich Meschede
Assistant curator: Meta Marina Beeck


Kunsthalle Bielefeld presents Esther Kläs and Johannes Wald
Kunsthalle Bielefeld
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