Marcia Tucker, who curated Markus Raetz’s 1998 solo show at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, wrote that the Swiss artist “makes pieces which are visually elusive but remain in the mind’s eye for years afterward—if you take the time to seek them out.” Raetz loves visual puns, and his sculptures and drawings often consist of one image turning into another, or flickering between abstraction and something recognizable. Raetz has compared his own work to the Greek myth of Metamorphosis by Ovid. He explains that in the myth, “a woman is changing into a laurel tree. It is not the two images—of the woman and the tree—that are interesting. The moment of change is the most fantastic.”
Raetz was born in 1941 in Büren an der Aare, a small town near Bern, Switzerland. He studied art at the Reitveld Academy in Amsterdam for half a year, just long enough to learn etching. He trained as a teacher and taught from the ages of twenty to twenty-two. He still sees teaching as an important part of his work, even if instruction simply takes the form of talking with the young artists who assist him in his studio.
Since the beginning of his career, Raetz has made sculptures and drawings that use a variety of motifs: mickey mouse heads, faces, pipes, twigs, rabbits, or human figures. But the real subject of his work is motion, both that of the viewer and of the fleeting images in the art. His 1992 cast iron piece, for example, Nichtpfeife (Non Pipe), refers to Magritte’s famous painting of a pipe inscribed “Ceci n’ est pas une pipe,” (This is not a pipe). Nichtpfeife appears to be a rusty swirl of cast iron but from a particular viewpoint it becomes a silhouette of a pipe.
Raetz had his first solo show in 1966 at the Galerie Toni Gerber in Bern. He has shown regularly since 1981 at Galerie Farideh Cadoh in Paris and at since 1994 at Galerie Monica Cardenas in Milan. His first solo museum show was at the Kunstmuseum Basel in 1972. Since then he has shown at every major Swiss museum, including the Kunstmuseum Lucerne in 1975, the Kunsthalle Bern in 1977, and the Museum fur Gegenwartskunst, Basel in 1989. In 1993 he had a solo show at London’s Serpentine Gallery and in 1994 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki. He represented his country at the Sao Paolo Biennial in 1977 and at the Venice Biennale in 1980, and exhibited in the Venice Biennale in 2007. His museum shows in the United States have included The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York in 1988, and The San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in 1990. In 2001 he had an exhibition at the Arts Club of Chicago which traveled to the University of Massachusetts.
Printmaking has always been a part of Raetz’s creative output. In 1992 he had a retrospective print exhibition at the Cabinet Des Estampes in Geneva. Since 1988, he has produced editions with Brooke Alexander Editions in New York, and he did projects at Crown Point Press in 1991 and 2001.
Markus Raetz lives in Bern, Switzerland and is represented by Galerie Kornfield in Bern, Gallerie Monica Cardenas in Milan, and Gallery Brooke Alexander in New York.
-Kim Bennett, Crown Point Press