Museum Haus Konstruktiv is holding Switzerland’s first institutional solo exhibition devoted to Austrian artist Helga Philipp (1939–2002). With her oeuvre, situated in the realm of kinetic art and op art, Philipp made a substantial contribution to constructivist-concrete trends in Austria. The exhibition offers a representative selection of works spanning all of Philipp’s productive years, from the early 1960s to the early 2000s: from drawings, prints and paintings to three-dimensional works, and through to objects in the domain of applied arts.
With this Helga Philipp solo show, Museum Haus Konstruktiv is once again pursuing its objective of presenting to a wide audience the work of female constructivist-concrete artists, who were often received less extensively than their male colleagues, and to bring out the specific features of their respective positions. After overview exhibitions on Vera Molnar and Marlow Moss, for example, it is now Helga Philipp’s turn. Under the title Poesie der optischen Transformation (Poetry of Optical Transformation), the exhibition extends throughout all the rooms on the fourth floor. Chronological presentation is deliberately avoided; instead, the carefully selected exhibits are grouped according to themes and media. This allows one of the central strategies in the artistic practice of this reflective and, to an equal extent, versatile artist to become very visible: that of taking a theme – the square, the circle or the line, for instance – and working through it for years on end, in multiple genres and in various media.
Alongside Philipp’s kinetic objects, paintings, drawings and prints, an exhibit from the domain of applied arts is also on display at Museum Haus Konstruktiv. It is a seating arrangement from 1970, comprising two elements: the circle and the intermediate space that appears when four circles of equal size are grouped in a square formation. For this exhibition, a new edition of this design object has been produced, which is available for visitors to engage with. As a nod to its first presentation at the 1970 exhibition Leben mit Kunst (Living with Art) in a furniture store in Graz, the seating arrangement is exhibited together with a vertical kinetic object featuring a grid of circles. In addition, historical black-and-white photographs demonstrate three possible ways for the observer to interact with object and space. Like so many of Philipp’s works, this one also shows that systematically conceived art does not have to be austere or cold, but can by all means be playful and spectacular. This is the ostensible contradiction that the title of the exhibition also hints at.