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28.01.2021

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Is your fruit bowl well stocked, and your vegetable drawer pleasantly full? During these months of lockdown, when we spend probably more time than usual in the kitchen, an exploratory inventory of the groceries makes sense. After all, they are not only food items; they can also be used for creative pastimes. The small photo sculptures by Henry Rox may serve as helpful inspirations; and they are now here to be rediscovered, eight decades after being created. Brightly coloured in nostalgic hues, these charming fruit and vegetable figures were sculpted between the thirties and the fifties, after Rox was forced into exile in the USA.

With painstaking care, using fantastical arrangements of figures, he depicted the bizarreness to be found in everyday life. The materials he mainly used were different pieces of fruit and vegetables. His whimsical creations include a leek diva, a singing banana ensemble, a pear violinist, and a carrot elephant. The inventor went much further, however, by capturing entire stories in his sculptures: is the carrot rider, under celery palm trees, not reminiscent of proud Don Quijote? Does the apple boy remind us of the unfortunate son of William Tell, whose arrow went quite off the mark on this occasion? The viewer can see the inventor's surprisingly childlike and playful desire to create unexpected transformations out of these edible materials; only a few little things are needed, such as button eyes, small arms or bows, to turn them into proper actors.

The creator of these amazing -- what he called -- “photo sculptures” was originally from Berlin. Henry Rox was born Heinrich Rosenberg, in 1899 in Berlin-Schöneberg, the third son of a wealthy Jewish merchant family. He studied History of Art and Sculpture, and was part of Berlin’s art scene. His career as a sculptor and interior designer was interrupted by the National Socialist system. Together with his wife, who worked as a journalist focussing on culture, he managed to flee to London in 1934. Tragically, other members of his family were later murdered by the Nazis. In London, he had to reinvent himself. He drew, sculpted and photographed, and produced the first pieces made out of fruits, which later went on to illustrate children’s books. The couple emigrated to the USA in 1939, where they lived in South Hadley, about 150 kms to the north-west of Boston. There, the artist struggled to make a living as a lecturer. With the surname Rox, he acquired American citizenship in 1946. In 1967, he passed away, two years after his retirement. He was followed four years later by his wife, Lotte. His body of work fell into oblivion.

This wonderful publication by Wolfgang Vollmer, a FOTOHOF edition currently presented within the framework of an exhibition, is designed in the style of a children’s book: in bright colours, on shiny, thick and rounded off cardboard pages, its focus is fully upon the pieces of work. A supplementary booklet offers information about the artist’s life and oeuvre. While the pictures at first seem delightfully naive, they acquire the necessary weight through the biography of their creator; thus turning the fate of the Rox couple, who were persecuted for ideological reasons, into a remarkable and touching reading experience. (Ulrich Rüter)

Wolfgang Vollmer
Henry Rox Revue. Fotografie 1935 – 1955
34 pages, plus 28-page booklet; 64 colour and black and white images. Text: Wolfgang Vollmer; graphic design: Sarah Kluder and Wolfgang Vollmer. German/English. Fotohof Edition.

© HRAC (Henry Rox Archive Cologne), FOTOHOF edition 2020

Wolfgang Vollmer

Photographer, collector and curator Wolfgang Vollmer (born 1952) is responsible for rediscovering the works for the Henry Rox Revue. He stumbled, by chance, across the carrot elephant, online; and then began to research Rox’s life and art. He found the few documents, photographs and references available about the Rox couple in a diversity of archives in the USA and Europe.

Website

The Henry Rox Revue will be presented at the FOTOHOF Salzburg, within the framework of the exhibition Wolfgang Vollmer. Projekte 2010-20, running from January 26 to April 3, 2021.
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