German / English
The sculptures of Inge Mahn take their cue from everyday objects. Dog houses and bird boxes, a traffic tower, a set of classroom furniture, steeples and chimneys have been recreated, refashioned and bizarrely alienated in white plaster and other common materials. Their silken surfaces absorb the light and render their forms more abstract, like phantoms in the room. In the artist’s exhibitions, the sculptures are installed in different constellations to include the spectator in a tension field between public space and personal experience.
Inge Mahn (born 1934) studied at the Academy of Arts in Düsseldorf where until 1972 she was a master student of Joseph Beuys. In the year of her graduation, she was invited to documenta 5 by curator Harald Szeemann. Since then she has widely exhibited in national and international solo and group shows. In 1983 she became professor first at the Academy of Arts in Stuttgart and later at the Weißensee Academy in Berlin. Today she lives and works in the village of Groß Fredenwalde in northeastern Germany.
SCULPTURAL ASSERTIONS IN SPACE
Several sculptures by Inge Mahn are positioned in a space, receiving their form from it. Others assert themselves like architecture, self-confidently and discreetly, in a surrounding space that is not made precise. The irregular white surfaces reveal the traces of numerous fabrication processes and absorb the light that should be intensified by their large surface area and pale colour. This circumstance explains the sculptures’ peculiar presence. Despite their formal relation to Minimal art, they do not demand attention, unfolding instead a particular poetry from this modest, though very decisive, stance. Their uniform whiteness and their irregular surfaces, which break the ambient light, evoke an impression in the viewer of standing before clear bodies, which, like phantoms, do not occupy the space they define, but keep it open.
Another aspect of Mahn’s sculptures likewise reveals her oeuvre to represent a position in the recent discourse on three-dimensional art that has been given far too little attention. Each work by Mahn evokes seen things, mostly architectural in nature, but displaces them into a subjective image-mode through coarse execution and the obvious unusability of the resulting form... Works not immediately related to an architectural context, such as Polizeikanzel (Police pulpit, 1973), one of the first large works Mahn completed after leaving art school, take up structures from the public sphere – in this case, an elevated platform used by traffic police. Mahn created the form, however, in such an obviously handmade and functionally useless way that an endless chain of quasi-metaphorical meanings arises: the posturing of state power, the evocation of East German watchtowers along the intra-German border at the time, and the ironic link between the police platform and the Christian preacher’s pulpit...