In his site-specific installations, Olaf Metzel has made a name for himself by picking up on historical, often explicitly political issues, and creating a stir in doing so, particularly in the public realm. A case in point is his contribution to the Berlin Boulevard of Sculptures in 1987 that made him known overnight. Himself a native Berliner, the artist installed his sculpture 13.4.1981, a tall stack of police fencing and shopping carts that recalled the violent rioting of the early 1980s. Hazards, threats or destruction, however, are more than just a recurrent theme in Metzel’s work; they are tantamount to an aesthetic program and sculptural technique. Numerous installations appear to have their origins in acts of violence – fights or explosions – and consist of the fragments and debris left of objects that are meant for everyday use, such as bicycle racks, glass or chairs. Not least, Metzel’s scultures, which are frequently made of steel or concrete, derive their inherent tension from juxtaposing the heaviness of the material with an optic impression of lightness: Shaped into filigree, transparent, towering and fragile spiral or grid structures, they maintain a precarious balance forever threatened by collapse. Metzel participated in the documenta 8 (1987), and Sculpture Projects Münster (in 1987 and 1997). Recently, the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich dedicated an entire solo exhibition to him (2003), as did the Hamburger Kunsthalle and the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (both in 2006), as well as the Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal (2007). Since 1990, Metzel has taught at the Munich Academy of Figurative Art, and served as the Academy’s Director between 1995 and 1999. For Stommeln Synagogue, Olaf Metzel realised the installation “Sprachgitter” – having the dual connotation of “discursive grid” and “language grid” – which has been open to the public since October 4.
Seen below the Synagogue’s ceiling is a brute, im-probable thing, a crystalline wooden structure that occupies almost the entire space while leaving the centre void – an enormous picture frame without contents. Initially, it reminds you spontaneously of a crown of thorns – out of place in a Jewish house of prayer, (too) strictly speaking. The regularity and redundancy of the basic shapes are remindful of architectonic