James Reineking, Synclasticon, 1977, 51°59'46.8"N7°35'48.1"E

James Reineking, Synclasticon, 1977. Installation view


The US-American artist James Reineking (1937–2018) created his sculpture Synclasticon for the Skulptur Ausstellung in Münster 1977 (Sculpture Exhibition in Münster 1977). Originally installed on the forecourt of the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, it was presented as a part of the historical survey of the three-part exhibition tracing the history and development of modern sculpture. The positioning of the work at the same time made reference to the two strands of the comprehensive show that were staged in public space and which featured several of Reineking’s contemporaries, among others Carl Andre, Richard Serra and Donald Judd. They all belonged to a generation of western sculptors who were interested in purely nonrepresentational works and had abandoned any reference to reality beyond the work itself. With a focus on the material, form and production process as the only relevant content, the Minimalism of the 1960s and -70s involved exploring the possibility of unadulterated autonomy in an artwork.

Like many of Reineking’s sculptures, Synclasticon is formed from a single Corten steel plate. The processing of industrial construction material is a characteristic feature of Minimalist sculpture which, from the outset, avoids any suggestion of superiority of art, while bearing in mind the potential of serial production. At the basis of the artist’s construction description1 for his work for Münster – produced at the Hamburg-based dockyard Blohm+Voss – is a plate of 2 x 7 meters. Cut out from it are two halves which, though of the same size, are not equal in shape and fit into each other as positive and negative. While the one half consists of an elongated, concave arc segment linked with a shorter convex segment, the other half is composed oppositely, yet both halves are divided in a 5:7 ratio. At the point where the convex meets the concave, each of the two elements are bent to achieve an inner angle of 60°. Subsequently, both convex sides are formed into a curve; the longer one toward the outside and the shorter to the inside. The bent elements now are freestanding and are positioned to face one another so that both concave parts form a line. From a bird’s-eye perspective, the sculpture now looks like a straight that intersects a curve. The diameter of the curve corresponds exactly to one initially calculated for the arc segments cut out of the plate.

Examining the sculpture, one gets a sense of the complex geometry underlying Reineking’s work by attempting to mentally restore its original state. Inspiring this kind of synthetic thinking is typical of Reineking’s sculptures, which are conceived to lead to mental interaction with the audience. Those willing to engage with the posed puzzle are likely to find themselves in the midst of the work’s production process, in a contemplation on the arrangement and variability of forms. The same is intended with the title of the work: Synclasticon is portmanteau composed of the words “synclastic” and “icon”. The first describes an object in geometry whose surface is curved toward the same side from any point and in all directions, as in the case of a cupola. The word icon, in turn, describes a sign that bears a perceptible resemblance with the designated object, a representation of the Virgin Mother or any photograph. Altogether, the title describes what the work essentially is: a representation of a synclastic function calculation – and as a word, it forms itself into a puzzle, like the sculpture itself. Here too manifests the radical approach of defining the artwork as an autonomous object, of not allowing it to make reference to anything beyond itself, but instead achieving its freedom in objectivity and a concentration on the essential: material, form, production.

After its acquisition by the City of Münster shortly after the end of the Skulptur Ausstellung, the sculpture was first placed in front of the elementary school Kinderhaus-West. Since the 1990s, it had to be moved to the Westhoffstrasse due to an extension of the building, from where it once more had to be moved for reasons of urban planning. In 2013 the decision was made for its current location on a green area at Langebusch near the centre of the Münster-Kinderhaus.

Tobias Peper


A construction drawing, including cutting instructions, was published in the catalogue of the exhibition. Cf. Bußmann, Klaus and König, Kasper (eds.): Skulptur Ausstellung in Münster 1977. Katalog I und II (Münster, 1977).