Rehberger was once a student of Martin Kippenberger and boy does it show – this is a really duff exhibition. He has fans all over Europe and the support of a big gallery here in the UK but what Rehberger needs more than anything else (apart from giving up the skunk) is someone willing to say “no” to him.
Downstairs there is a prime example of what the press release puffs up as being “sociable, interactive, utopian and playful”, but which is actually a corrugated cardboard tunnel/playhouse painted in bright colours. Apparently his work “thrives on chance
connections, unexpected encounters and the gaps between communication
and understanding” i.e. he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and no one else gets it either! On the first floor, he has built up a large wall of repeating polystyrene units that are casually sprayed with ugly neon paint, and there are some really horrible wall paintings throughout. It’s big, brash, confident & overbearing… yuck.
The top floor offers contrast in the form of a set of miniature sculptures that are meant to be interesting because of the materials they are made of. Designer dresses cremated and turned into pigment, luxury vehicle keys embedded in resin, one thing melted down and made into another. But this is hardly Simon Starling. Everything is loud in spite of its tiny scale, and makes its points in the most clunkingly obvious ways. Does the allure of a designer name outlive the physical reality of the garment? Is an artwork worth more than a luxury superbike? Er, that’s about it. This is really studenty work (no offence to students, keep it up chaps).
Rehberger’s large installation at the Whitechapell in 2004 was physically imposing and lacking substance, while his earlier small-scale works seemed to have more of an interesting edge to them. I’m thinking of his vases-as-portraits and his seating designs. Perhaps his success has simply been to much to handle, with institutions throwing large sums of money at him and asking him to fill bigger and bigger spaces. But I would urge any museum directors reading this (I know you’re all doing it) to visit Haunch of Venison and seriously reconsider their plans.