In little over two decades, Reinhold Koehler developed an immense body of work, informed by his principle of décollage.  Both he and his art belong to the Rhine-Westphalia lands of Germany, where the ‘Gruppe 53’ came to prominence in Düsseldorf in 1953, practicing ‘Informel’, using the Tachist and gestural styles which they essentially derived from Dada.  Nowhere else in Germany was there an artistic concentration of this kind. The movement included painters such as Peter Brüning, Karl Fred Dahmen, Albert Fürst, Herbert Götzinger, Gerhard Hoehme, Hahn Trier, Otto Piene and Heinz Mack. It was also during this time that Gerhardt Richter came over from Eastern Germany to be able to paint freely. He practiced Tachism, then a form of Pop Art before turning to his trade-mark style of blurry press-photographs.

 

Amidst this buoyant artistic scene, Koehler was a lone wolf. He had single-handedly the technique of ‘décollage’ and used it as early as 1948, ten years before the Neo-Dadaists. It was on the Island of Sylt where Koehler first used the technique, in a series of sea gulls where he shaped the birds out of pieces of cardboard he had covered with black ink and then tore off parts to make visible a form of figuration. His early use of different techniques of manipulating paper were revolutionary: tearing, cutting by knife, scratching by knife or fingers and unravelling.

 

During 1955-58, Koehler produced work in which he scratched and scraped the imagery into monotypes covered with oil paint, printing inks and gouache. During the same years, Koehler also made his first sand paintings. In 1957, Koehler made his first ‘Plakat-Décollages’, made of superimposed layers of newspaper, magazine adverts and posters, glued on card from which areas were carefully torn away, revealing the imagery underneath. From 1958 onwards, Koehler introduced areas cut or scratched away by knife in works that became known as ‘Décollages Gravés’, and in works known as ‘Décollages Purs et Gravés’ he used freehand tearing alongside knife cuts and scratches. In 1959, Koehler added yet another variant of ‘décollage’ with ‘Décollage Positiv-Negativ’ in which he carefully tore away a layer of paper by hand to then fold it over and glue it as to show its underbelly.

 

In 1960, Koehler started experimenting with fire and made a series of paper supports blackened with the imprint of heated metal, usually forks but also other kitchen paraphernalia, known as ‘Décollages Brûlés’. In 1963, Koehler reached another creative height with the production of his ‘Contre-Collages’, décollages covered with glass which he then smashed and covered with ink to create a random image. Simultaneously, he composed objects from broken plates and bottles. His work was now subject of many one-man shows in Siegen, Wiesbaden, Groningen, as well as the subject of articles by scholarly writers such as Helmut Heissenbüttel, Wilhelm Nettmann and Wieland Schmied.

 

Between 1949 and his untimely death in 1970, Koehler had one-man shows in Siegen with Galerie Nohl and in most German capital cities. During his lifetime, his work was exhibited worldwide in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Hungary, Morocco, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. His unique contribution to art history was recognised during his lifetime. In 1985 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.

 

Solo Exhibitions

1950, Galerie Kunstspiegel, Freiburg im Breisgau

1951, Museum des Siegerlandes, Siegen

1951, Museum Haus am Dom, Mainz

1958, Galerie Lometsch, Kassel

1958, Galerie ruth Nohl, Siegen

1958, Galerie Alfred Schmela, Düsseldorf

1958, Galerie Klaus Franck, Frankfurt/Main

1960, Galerie Otto van de Loo, München

1960, Städtisches Museum, Weisbaden

1961, Galerie Boukes, Wiesbaden

1961, Kunstpavilllon, Soest

1961, Galerie Lometsch, Kassel

1963, Galerie Boukes, Wiesbaden

1964, Märkisches Museum, Witten

1964, Kunstzaal de mangelgang, Groningen

1964, Galerie Albert Waalkens, Finsterwolde

1964, Galerie Ruth Nohl, Siegen

1964, junge Galerie, Kassel

1964, Städtische Galerie, Siegen

1965, Studiengalerie Techn. Hochschule, Stuttgart

1965, von-deer-Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal

1965, Galerie Na Karlove Námesti, Prague

1966, Kunstpavillion, Soest

1966, Galerie Ruth Nohl, Siegen

1967, Galerie Porta, Wuppertal-Barmen

1968, Forum für visuelle Experimente, Solingen

1968, Galerie Hans Jörg Meyer, Stuttgart

1968, Kleine-Grafik-Galerie, Bremen

1968, Galerie Toni Brechbühl, Grenchen

1968, Galerie Ruth Nohl, Siegen

1968, Galerie K 235, Köln

1968, Galerie Weinelt, Hof

1969, Galerie Schiessel, Köln

1969, Städtischer Kunstverein, Bochum

1970, Galerie S-Press, Blankstein

1970, Städtische Galerie, Siegen

1977, Galerie Karin Fesel, Wiesbaden

1980, Galerie Karin Fesel, Wiesbaden

1985, Sprengel Museum Hannover

1985/1986, Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen

1986, Museum moderner Kunst, Palais Liechtenstein, Wien

1986, Siegerland-Museum, Siegen