Erwin Heerich is born in 1922 in Kassel, Germany. After Word War II, Heerich starts his studies at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf where he is a member of the sculpting class of Ewald Mataré. From 1950 to 1954 Heerich himself takes over a »master class.« First cardboard sculptures and drawings experimenting with isometric displays show his interest in an opening up of the generic boundaries between architecture and sculpture. In the following years – Heerich does free-lance work at first – he has several teaching positions, for example, in 1957, as an assistant of Mataré in the summer academy of Oskar Kokoshka in Salzburg, and in 1961 at the »Seminar für werktätige Erziehung« in Düsseldorf.
During the 1960s and 1970s Heerich develops a comprehensive repertoire of forms and concepts with his drawings, graphics, and eventually with cardboard sculptures, a repertoire he later publishes in writings accompanying his work. He then makes use of this archive of guidelines and instructions in numerous projects, such as blueprints for furniture, in small architectonic sculptures, and architectural models. His extensive work emerges from his continued research in the field of isometric drawing which is to be considered the measure and guiding principle of his work. He shares his interest in the precision and regularity of stereometrical structures with the representatives of classical modernism, such as Bauhaus and International Style. Yet at the center of Feelisch’s interest is not so much the architecture to be realized, but rather the sculptural understanding of the developed and charted structures. For Feelisch, they have aesthetic effects which, albeit on a superficial level only, seem to anticipate American Minimal Art. Yet his early cardboard sculptures lack the ironic ruptures of a Sol LeWitt who declares the repetition of modular structures to be his principle. Instead, Heerich aims at the creation of objectified beauty: »Architectures are first, before they are used, sculptural bodies. Here, the gap between form and function has been overcome. In the logically derived form, practical functioning is also ensured. As a model of thought and visual perception Heerich’s sculptures inseparably fuse the beautiful and the practicable. (…) Heerich’s sculptures and buildings do not illustrate a philosophy. Yet they are definitely a housing for the metaphysical charting of art and life« (Stephan von Wiese, Ausst. Kat. 1995).
In 1968 and 1977 Heerich participates in the Documenta. Starting in 1967, first important solo exhibitions take place in Mönchengladbach, Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Bonn. In 1969 Heerich accepts a professorship at the Art Academy Düsseldorf, a position he holds until 1988. In 1974 he becomes a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. In 1979 his work is part of a traveling exhibition going from Berlin to Hanover, Nijmwegen, and Krefeld.
In 1980 Heerich starts planning his most prestigious project, the Museumsinsel Hombroich. In this landscape garden, redesigned and expanded after 1982, at first three exhibition pavilions are built on the basis of Heerich’s drafts and in cooperation with the architect Hermann Müller (Orangerie, Graubner-Pavillon, Hohe Galerie1983). In the years to follow Heerich builds further exhibition pavilions, large walk-in sculptures, steel objects, library and seminar rooms (Labyrinth 1985/86; Turm1988; Tadeusz Pavillon, Schnecke, Zwölf-Räume-Haus, 1991 — 1993). The idea of the walk-through sculpture acquires a new, distinctly narrative shape in a wooden sculpture for the sculpture park of the Museum Schloss Moyland (Ohne Titel (Trojanisches Pferd), 1997).
Erwin Herrich dies in 2004 in Meerbusch-Osterath
Stiftung Insel Hombroich. Museum und Raketenstation, Neuss 2002
Erwin Heerich Museum Insel Hombroich: Ausst.-Kat. Kunsthaus Bregenz, hg. v. Joachim Peter Kastner, Stuttgart 1996
Kunst + Design. Erwin Heerich. Plastische Modelle für Architektur und Skulptur. Preisträger der Stankowski-Stiftung 1995: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf, hg. v. Erwin Heerich, Wolfgang Schepers, Stephan von Wiese, Düsseldorf 1995
Erwin Heerich, Quadrat: Ausst.-Kat. Josef Albers Museum, hg. v. Ulrich Schumacher, Bottrop 1993
// Erwin Heerich. Plastische Prozesse: Ausst.-Kat. Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, Duisburg, hg. v. Christoph Brockhaus u. Erwin Heerich, Duisburg, 1992
Kastner, Joachim Peter: Erwin Heerich, Köln 1991