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I feel air from other planets
Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition of over thirty sculptures by Berlin-based artist Stefan Rinck: I feel air from other planets. The artist’s distinctively patterned and painstakingly chiseled, motley crew of stone characters hail from a fantastic dreamworld: hominid bears, well-dressed dogs, smiling alligators, twisted gargoyles and other cartoonish creatures culled from contemporary culture and historical cannons. For I feel air from other planets, Rinck has built a Hieronymus Bosch-like rock garden of earthly delights – a vision of pure whimsy, grim darkness and satirical wit.
Stefan Rinck also studied German literature and philosophy and finds inspiration in art, mythology, poetry and music. “I feel air from another planet…” begins the poem Transcendence by Stefan George (1868-1933), a prominent German Symbolist poet whose famous prose is the impetus for Rinck’s exhibition. The artist’s choice to employ this poem to frame his sculpted universe presents an open-ended and universal conversation about transformation, life, death and spiritually. Stefan George’s poem reads:
I feel air from another planet.
The faces that once turned to me in friendship
Pale in the darkness before me.
And trees and paths I loved grow wan
So that I hardly know them, and your light,
Beloved shadow – summoner of my torment –
Is now extinguished quite in deeper burning flames,
In order, after the frenzy of warring confusion,
To appear in holy awe and yearning.
I dissolve into tones, circling, weaving,
In groundless thanks and nameless praise,
Surrendering without a wish to the mighty breathing.
A tempestuous wind overwhelms me
In sacred rapture where the fervent cries
Of praying women in the dust implore:
Then I behold how misty clouds disperse
In the sun-suffused clear skies
That only embrace on the farthest mountain retreats.
The ground shudders white and soft as whey.
I climb across vast chasms,
I feel myself floating above the furthest cloud
In a sea of crystal radiance –
I am but a spark of holy fire,
I am but a thundering echo of the holy voice.
In reading George’s poem and discerning the multitude of references from ancient, medieval to Pop that appear in the anthropomorphic beings of Rinck’s sculptures, we understand the exhibition as emerging from a heavily laden Symbolist mist, evoking a throng of personal readings to the contemporary viewer laced with a universal sensory experience.
The poem can also relate to Rinck’s materials – geology speaking to that same poetic spiritual transformation. For instance, he uses Diabas, an ancient, very dense subvolcanic black stone that is found in rare nests below the earth’s surface. He also uses Sandstone, which exists in a variety of color variants and contains subtle twinkling glints. Sandstone is also made under pressure, but less violently, in an almost romantic way. It is sedimentary rock – so insignificant dust over time becomes the substance that now holds up elaborate cathedrals. Rinck also uses classic glimmering marble, which is created when limestone melts under enormous heat and pressure. Marble was famously favored by the ancients and artists in the Renaissance era who wished to represent sublime, heavenly bodies with its sparkle. Stone is seen as eternal and obstinate, but like all things, changes, and is utterly defined by the forces around it, in this case our very own planet, and by the hand of a fanciful artist.
Rinck describes the exhibition as a type of mini retrospective, specifically, the last ten years of his work collected in a daisy-chain of beloved ideas. Our collective histories and fantasies are played out in cartoonish stone by cultural icons like the Smurfs, Napoleon Bonaparte, Goddesses, Duck Dodgers, Boogeymen, Flat-earthers, Scientologists, Court Jesters and Ninja Turtles. Rinck’s subjects embody his guileless, even acerbic, humor while still embracing the playful joy of the barmy creatures. Taken within the context of Transcendence, this cast of characters speaks to the collective experience of yearning for spiritual renewal and transformation through the worship of strange heroes.
 Transcendence by Stefan George. English Translation by Richard Stokes