Untitled is an example of Ulrich Rückriem’s many vertical stone sculptures, which he has created since 1968. These pieces reference the sculptural tradition of the monolith, or more specifically the stele. Both sculptural types are large, single vertically-oriented slabs or blocks of stone that do not support any weight or function as a part of a larger architectural structure. Historically, stelae have been used to mark events or places of significance, but Rückriem uses the form to bring awareness to both the location of its origin, in this case the quarry, and the site of its eventual display. The granite stone comprising Untitled was excavated in the former Yugoslavia, but takes on a new sense of place and meaning when installed within the wooded landscape of The Carell Trail, calling attention to the transformation of natural material into a human-made object.
Rückriem began his career in the late 1950s, as apprentice stonemason in Düren, Germany, before working three more years in the workshop of the Cologne Cathedral. This early experience with the technical aspects of stone carving has informed much of his sculpture. The underlying principle of Rückriem’s practice is that the intrinsic qualities and the origin of the stone should remain visible in the final work. He duplicates, splits, reduces, and slightly alters the stone, making the material and its subsequent transformation into an art object, the primary subject of his sculpture. Rückriem juxtaposes different textures and surface treatments, revealing both the artist’s hand and the marks created during the quarrying process.