REPORT: Bullshittin’ on a chair with Bob Rutman

Bullshittin’ on a chair with Bob Rutman. Bob’s aesthetic of ugliness.

“getting high is my fondest memory in life,” Bob laughs. either a trip down memory lane is sabotaged or the most rocking ride awaits! a joker smile reveals the later to be true. 

PLATOON KUNSTHALLE’s green interior and dreamy darkness were armored with Steve Baer’s soothingly smooth saxophone as we celebrated the legacy of Berlin born Bob Rutman, founder of the U.S. Steel Cello Ensemble, on the day before his 82nd birthday. Bob himself, Eric (his son) and PLATOONS’s own Marcello joined in on a jam session your future children will talk about.

the clicking of purposeful walking and fine yet icy sound of porcelain against porcelain from the espresso scented bar lay the soundtrack for the all absorbing, tranquil moments I am honored to spend with Bob Rutman before the gig. a man of many talents, stories - and years, none the less. counting 82 there must be a birthday that stands out, and according to Bob it is this one “and hopefully not too many others.” a threat he also made last year Steve Baer chuckles, prophesying many more anniversaries to come.

his line and chair paintings, sculptural works as well as the known piece ‘a table and four chairs’ fill up the space at the KUNSTHALLE. experimental simplicity with an edge, just like his musical endeavors that originate from self-made instruments. his latest and favorite invention made out of stryofoam, poetically manifests both creation and destruction as the cutting bow shreds the material in order for a soundscape to emerge. whereas Bob sees classical music as organized sound, he himself swears to making noise: “the styrofoam is the exact opposite to the bow-chime and the steel cello, which make a very full sound. instead, the styrofoam is like Gänsehaut! it’s the opposite of beauty, it’s like really ugly and I like that.”

influenced by the abstract impressionists, artworks by Matisse and Picasso he would seek out in New York’s galleries, Bob’s body of work includes landscapes, 50 seated nudes and 162 chair paintings. and why chairs? “my son came to visit me in Cambridge, Massachusetts where I was living, and he asked me what he should do? I said ‘paint’. he asked ‘what?’ I said ‘paint chairs’. he did a painting of a chair and I kind of copied it. and I always tried to paint the perfect chair.” chairs because they are functional and because we spend a lot of time “sitting on them and discussing, philosophizing and bullshitting.” a dynamic-static sphere.

Bob has moved around though. he was brought up in England, lived and studied art in America and Mexico-City and toured in Europe. talking from experience and as a former resident of Maine and Boston, he finds the American approach to art rather “perverse”, reflecting a McDonald’s and Burger King mentality that overlooked local artists like himself. even though he loves America at heart, a “higher degree of culture and appreciation of art” in Europe, he notes, makes it possible for him to exist as the artist he is. here he lives according to the personal credo “the less people there, the better the sound.” currently this involves playing and chilling at favorite hangouts in Berlin like White Trash Restaurant, Cookies and PLATOON KUNSTHALLE (we love you too Bob!).

the old bones are soon ready to retire this ironic soul insinuates. another threat. backing up Baer’s prophecy, a shout out goes to Bob to always keep bullshitting magic and scratching blackboards!    


Contributed by Martina Antunovic

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