Matthias Neumann was trained in architecture in Germany, Italy and Canada and relocated to New York City in 2000 after graduating from the University of Dresden, Germany. Over the past five years he has been engaged with a series of public interventions under the title “Basics,” exploring an abstracted notion of form, space and utility in public sculpture. The work wants to be experienced both as an abstract sculptural gesture in dialogue with its environment and a usable and interactive spatial installation in the public realm. He also teaches architecture at the Spitzer School of Architecture.

Matthias Neumann installed Basics #50 on the campus of Hollins University through a partnership with the City of Roanoke Arts Commission for the Reimagining Roanoke exhibition. The site-specific work was completed on May 28, 2021.

Basics #50, Site-Specific 2021
Wood (Reusable 2X4s)
On the campus of Hollins University


Over the course of five years and 49 iterations of “Basics” many adjacent aspects relative to the work have come into focus, and have critically informed the work, such as material cycles and re-use of materials after their temporary existence as an art installation, as well as questions of processes and community engagement, where some of the works were constructed with community input akin to a barn raising, and which in turn has fostered a sense of community “ownership” of the work over the time of its existence. 

I believe it is these “adjacent” and not primarily formal aspects of the work that have the potential to foster a notion of site-specificity that I would like to contribute to the curatorial notion of “A New Life: Reimagining Roanoke.” The series of work is based on the formal and material qualities of 2×4 lumber, the most common building material in the North American context. As all installations in the work series “Basics” are temporary, and are considered to contribute to a notion of temporary public sculpture, the 2×4 lumber is dismantled at the end of the exhibition period with no waste and perfectly usable framing material. In previous installations I have endeavored to cycle the wood back into building projects in the local community, and some sculptures were transformed into wall framing for a local art center in upstate New York, a deck adjacent to artist studios in Atlanta, or repurposed for subsequent art installations by art students in Alabama. Part of the concept of this work series considers the material used in the installation as merely borrowed from the material construction cycles of the everyday to which the 2x4s return after the incarnation as a sculptural installation. As such, I typically do not use recycled material upfront, however, all material is recycled after the fact.

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