This catalogue is the first English publication on Reinhold Koehler (1919-1970) who remained, until now, unknown outside Germany. In little over two decades, Reinhold Koehler developed an immense body of work, informed by the art of collage. From 1948 until his untimely death in 1970, Koehler experimented intensely with paper, sand, glue, glass and ceramics, challenging the accepted principle of beauty by using the processes of reduction and destruction.
Single-handedly, Koehler invented and developed the ‘décollage’ technique ten years prior to the Neo-Dadaists’ use of the technique, which he then subjected to a multitude of experiments resulting in a panoply of radical new techniques. This incomparable body of work is a testimony to Koehler’s powerful creative mind and individual expression which can be situated central to the German 1950’s avant-garde, matching the endeavours of Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, Emil Schumacher and Wolf Vostell.
Both the artist and his art belong to the North Rhine-Westphalia lands of Germany, where ‘Gruppe 53’ came to prominence in its capital Düsseldorf in 1953. Together with ‘Quadriga’ founded in Hessen’s capital, Frankfurt, and ‘ZEN 49’ founded in Bavaria’s capital, Munich, it made up the Post-War German 1950’s avant-garde known as ‘Informel’.
Between 1958 and his untimely death in 1970, Koehler exhibited worldwide in Auckland, Casablanca, Bucharest, Prague, Zagreb, Bremen, Cologne and Kassel. In 1986 the Sprengel Museum, Hannover hosted a retrospective show, which travelled to the Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, the Museum Moderner Kunst, Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna and the Siegerland-Museum, Siegen.
Koehler’s unique contribution to art history was recognised during his lifetime. Having had affiliations with the movements of ‘Informel’ and ‘Nouveau Realisme’ Koehler’s individual rendering of rhythms and revelations of a crumbly and distant reality give his work a unique status. His use of the processes of reduction and destruction to create beauty places him firmly within the modern Post-War avant-garde and bears witness to the hope and needs of a country which was coming to terms with its national criminal legacy.