Osvaldo Romberg’s art embodies an all-encompassing, all-embracing cultural vision, crossing territorial borders as well as the borders of culture and period. Romberg’s historical vision does not limit itself to one particular culture, but attempts to study human culture as one global whole. It seems that this global approach, whose early indications could be seen obvious even before “global” became a watchword, originated in the passion for trans-border experience, unwilling to be limited by being defined as one particular cultural space or specific discipline.
Romberg’s own effervescent, globe-trotting life expresses the global experience, as he constantly travels from one profession and country to another. His experiences during these travels through physical and spiritual worlds provide him with the materials for his cultural research. The study procedure is based on deconstruction, analysis and later re-binding of parts, forming them into a coherent and meaningful art object that may be displayed, transmitting global messages. Although Romberg’s deconstruction initially seems to be incoherent, an additional inspection uncovers his ever-present need to arrange the deconstructed sections into a new order. Perhaps initially the new arrangement may not be clear to the viewer, but later on, the new order is constructed, solidified and clarified. Clarity and comprehensibility are the hallmarks of the final output: witness Romberg’s early art history paintings (1970s), and the later installations featuring cultural edifices with historical significance to mankind.
In all his works, Romberg concentrates on isolated points in time that have been etched into human consciousness and transformed into a time continuum that is timeless and a-cultural. By focusing on the ritual structures used by ancient cultures (Aztecs, Romans, and Egyptians, as well as ancient Judaism), Romberg attempts to examine and analyze the meaning of human spirit. Does Time, which dismantled these structures and destroyed their physical wholeness into ruin, affect the way these buildings are perceived in a cultural context? Can the cultures that are represented by relics continue to resonate through spiritual spheres? No less important is the question of how people perceive the past, since human perception is neither fixed nor objective. Most important, human perception changes with the spirit of the times, repeatedly destroying and crumbling buildings and sound memory, clothing them in the guise of contemporary time and period.
Romberg flows with the breakdown, as he transforms the reconstructed floor plan of the Forum Romanum or the Synagogue of Masada into a concrete physical state. He lifts the two-dimensional architectural plan from the drafted page or computer screen and makes it into a three-dimensional drawing, using his training as an architect to the fullest, in order to build new structures that are blatantly non-functional beyond their spiritual role. As installations, they once again become a source for thought and spiritual philosophy, bearing a message in the realm of thought, philosophy appealing to Time that is not the present time. Their new state requires the viewer to rummage around in one’s memory, dredging up symbols, sensations and emotions that had been perhaps forgotten from consciousness throughout the actions of daily life. The new state transforms them, as they themselves were transformed under the artist’s hand, into a meta-spiritual perception.
The process of cumulative information storage arising from a retrospective of Romberg’s oeuvre is the process of structuring a global cultural research. The intriguing eclectic data storage of the bricoleur becomes a solid product. Romberg’s creative art-making is a variation on the theme of culture. During the 1970s and 1980s, scientific research strove for maximum precision, and broke down every element into its sub-particles. The precision approach gave way to the interdisciplinary approach, while more recently, the global approach has become dominant in science and in art. Romberg’s work, out of a reading of the subterranean streams of science and culture, represents the ever-changing cultural processes of the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries, symbolizing art-making that is fully aware of contemporary processes of thought and spirit.
The article was written for the exhibition of Osvaldo Romberg, Translocations, PeKA gallery, Technion, Haifa, 2006