Markus Raetz

I am doing things everybody can understand. It is not complicated work. I can see that in the reaction of children.

Marcia Tucker, who curated Markus Raetz’s 1998 solo show at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, wrote that the Swiss artist “makes pieces which are visually elusive but remain in the mind’s eye for years afterward—if you take the time to seek them out.” Raetz loved visual puns, and his sculptures and drawings often consisted of one image turning into another, or flickering between abstraction and something recognizable. Raetz compared his own work to the Greek myth Metamorphosis by Ovid. He explained that in the myth “a woman is changing into a laurel tree. It is not the two images—of the woman and the tree—that are interesting. The moment of change is the most fantastic.”

Raetz  (1941-2020) was born in Büren an der Aare, a small town near Bern, Switzerland. He studied art at the Reitveld Academy in Amsterdam for half a year, just long enough to learn etching. He trained as a teacher and taught from the ages of twenty to twenty-two. He saw teaching as an important part of his work, even if instruction simply took the form of talking with the young artists who assisted him in his studio.

Since the beginning of his career, Raetz made sculptures and drawings that used a variety of motifs: mickey mouse heads, faces, pipes, twigs, rabbits, or human figures. But the real subject of his work was motion, both that of the viewer and of the fleeting images in the art. His 1992 cast iron piece, for example, Nichtpfeife (Non Pipe), refers to Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe inscribed “Ceci n’ est pas une pipe,” (This is not a pipe).Nichtpfeife appears to be a rusty swirl of cast iron but from a particular viewpoint it becomes a silhouette of a pipe.

Raetz had his first solo show in 1966 at the Galerie Toni Gerber in Bern. Beginning in 1981 he was represented regularly at Galerie Farideh Cadoh in Paris and at Galerie Monica Cardenas in Milan beginning in 1994. His first solo museum show was at the Kunstmuseum Basel in 1972. Since then his work has been shown in every major Swiss museum, including the Kunstmuseum Lucerne in 1975, the Kunsthalle Bern in 1977, and the Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel in 1989. In 1993 he had a solo show at London’s Serpentine Gallery and in 1994 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. He represented his country at the Sao Paolo Biennial in 1977 and at the Venice Biennale in 1980, and he exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 2007. His museum shows in the United States have included The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York in 1988, and The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in 1990. In 2001 he had an exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago which traveled to the University of Massachusetts.

Printmaking has always been a part of Raetz’s creative output. In 1992 he had a retrospective print exhibition at the Cabinet Des Estampes in Geneva. Beginning in 1988, he produced editions with Brooke Alexander Editions in New York, and he did projects at Crown Point Press in 1991 and 2001. Markus Raetz lived in Bern, Switzerland and is represented by Fardiet Cadot Associes in Paris, Gallerie Monica Cardenas in Milan, and Gallery Brooke Alexander in New York.

-Kim Bennett, Crown Point Press

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