Handlungsbuch II (Handling Book II)
Edition of 80
19 1/4 x 15 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches (49 x 39 x 11 cm)
Signed and dated in ink with publisher’s stamp and edition number on inside of binding
Franz Erhard Walther’s “Handlungsbuch II (Handling Book II)” from 1963/1969 is a sewn work of raw cotton, consisting of a cover, spine, back cover and twenty-nine “pages” with loops, pockets, fold-out parts, et cetera. In its static state, whether opened or closed, the piece has formal properties that clearly relate it to a book. In the normal experience of reading a book, one turns pages and reads text or views images. With this work, the pages (not what is on them) are the focus. The different fabric forms of each page are designed for actions as straightforward as unfolding or as treacherous (also silly) as inserting one’s head into an enclosed “pocket” . The potential activities are suggested by the forms of the pages and so a viewer activates the “book” by turning the “pages” and exploring each page’s form. As the critic Michael Upchurch wrote, “The work can seem dry or even sterile, more like the contents of some eccentric linen warehouse than an artistic endeavor, but when its human component is put into action, it becomes both playful and testing.”
Franz Erhard Walther, recipient of the Golden Lion for best artist at the 2017 Venice Biennale, was born in 1939 in Fulda, Germany, where he now lives and works. He has pioneered intermedia and participatory art since the late 1950’s and gained recognition in the 1960’s. He want then included in important group exhibitions such as “When Attitudes Become Form” (1969, curated by Harald Szeeman at Kunsthalle Bern, recreated for the 2013 Venice Biennale), “Documenta V” (Kassel, 1972, also curated by Szeeman), and “Spaces,” curated by Jennifer Licht at MOMA (1969-1970). His work is in many public collections, including Museum of Modern Art, Dia Art Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, The Centre Pompidou, Walker Art Center, Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, Nationalgalerie Berlin, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Kunsthaus Zürich, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt, Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, and MAMCO Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, among others. Recent solo exhibitions include those at Fundacion Jumex Arte Contemporaneo, Mexico City (2018); Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany (2017); Reina Sofia, Madrid (2017); Power Plant, Toronto (2016); Henry Art Gallery, Seattle (2015-2016); MUDAM, Luxembourg (2015); WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels (2014); and CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2014). Dia Art Foundation, New York has recently opened a long term presentation of Walther’s work from the 1960’s at Dia:Beacon.