A world of

Renowned Swiss artist brings ‘Works’ to Rochester

By Tom Weber

here is invariably a touch of whimsy in the art of Roman Signer.

Installations such as "Helicopter with Spray Can," "Bicycle with Yellow Ribbon" and "Bicycle with Wooden Beams" reflect Signer’s sense of humor, which is as dry as the mountain air of his native Switzerland.


"He definitely brings an element of humor to the work," said Sarah Stauder, executive director of the Rochester Art Center, where a major exhibition of Signer’s work opens Saturday. "Contemporary work can be a bit intensive. It’s nice to have a little bit of humor and also make you think at the same time."

Signer has been in Rochester this week, supervising the mounting of the exhibit, which is filling all of the art center’s galleries. After exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, this is his first major show in the Midwest.

"Rochester is like a city in Sweden or Norway," Signer said in German. "It’s such a clean city, and life here seems to be very peaceful."

Signer, who was born in 1938 in Appenzell, Switzerland, and now lives in the city of St. Gallen, has taken note of the countryside of southeastern Minnesota.

"I think it must be a very rich land here," he said. "It’s a beautiful landscape."

Most of the pieces in the Rochester exhibition are from Signer’s show at the Hamburg Bahnhof in Berlin. Others were created especially for Rochester.

Signer will stay in Rochester through Sunday, and then head to New York for a few days before returning to Europe where he will open a show in the Dutch city of Maastricht. "For me, May is very busy," he said.

To have an artist with a worldwide reputation in Rochester is a coup for the art center, Stauder said.


"This show really exemplifies what we can do here," she said. "I think this is something all of our audiences will enjoy. It’s accessible to all ages."

Curator Kris Douglas, who keeps a close eye on the contemporary European art scene, was primarily responsible for getting both Signer and his work to Rochester, Stauder said.

Stauder, who arrived in Rochester in the dead of winter to become the art center’s new executive director, said she plans to use the Signer show as a sort of launching pad. Nationally, the show will attract attention to the art center. Now the key is to raise awareness locally.

"My major focus is to get the word out about what we do," she said. "Most of what we’ve been doing is of extraordinary quality. It’s just matter of making people aware of it."

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