Klaus Geldmacher was born in 1940 in Frankfurt/Main. He grew up in Röthges in Hesse, completed school with the »Abitur« in Frankfurt and devoted himself entirely to music. From 1957 on he played the trumpet in various Jazz- and Bluesbands and participated in festivals. Music kept shaping his life after moving to Hamburg in 1957. Yet after a few semesters of studying Education, Geldmacher did some semesters as a probationary period at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg, one of his teachers being Alfonso Hüppi. In 1965 he was fully admitted and studied under Hans Michel. Geldmacher continued the political involvement of his student times after entering professional life. In 1972/73 he worked as an art??? consultant for the party executive committee of the Social Democratic Party in Bonn, became an authorized appraiser, and eventually executive director of the Internationale Gesellschaft der Bildenden Künste (International Society of the Fine Arts). In Berlin where Geldmacher lived from 1974 — 76, he worked as the secretary of the Deutscher Künstlerbund (German Society of Artists). Yet he returned to Hamburg in 1977 and after various cultural-political projects turned to journalism in 1982 — 84, working for the newspaper Hamburger Rundschau. After 1987 he lived in Düsseldorf and received first stipends and awards. From 1992 to 2001 he was the federal chair of the IG Medien-Bildende Kunst (Trade Union of Media and Fine Arts).
Since the 1960s Geldmacher’s artistic projects have been shaped by the involvement with new, technical forms of object art as well as a continuous interest in the politics of art and in music. Beyond creating light objects and electrically or acoustically driven works, he has consistently looked at art in its social and political context and has focused on the institutionalization of the art scene.
Initially, during his studies in Hamburg, he did figural as well as ornamental graphic art and watercolors. Visiting the Documenta III, it seems that he was introduced to kinetic light works which shifted his artistic focus. Geldmacher then participated in the following Documenta IV (1968) with the Projekt Geldmacher – Mariotti, a cube-shaped sound sculpture made of steel, light bulbs, neon tubes, and a rotor. The work through which sounds could be produced with a keyboard, had been developed together with Francesco Mariotti. Geldmacher saw his light objects also as contributions to an open, socially conscious perception of art, where art is understood as a carrier of information and a means of communication in a critical debate. In his following works the political aims of the artist were therefore again closely tied to the conception of the objects. Moreover, these works also aimed at a discernible reference to the present through their technical construction and the materials used. An evident aspect of his work for the Documenta IV remained of importance for Geldmacher’s works in the years to follow: the close cooperation with other artists, among them object and acoustics artist Edmund Kieselbach or painter and object artist Romen Banerjee with whom he also cooperated in exhibitions.
Geldmacher’s light objects are characterized by their technical functionality as well as their relief-like sculptural and quasi-graphic qualities. Early objects (Gut Strom1, 1965), e. g., show a clear design of the panel and flat boxes, structured according to functional units. These units provide system functions via light and movement. Towards the end of the 1960s Geldmacher also created larger objects that increasingly integrated glowing light bulbs. With elements from gambling machines or neon advertising, some objects also drew their repertoire of forms from urban everyday life and were visibly aimed at the viewer. This aspect took on a programmatic character with the group »multi« (Kunst zum ansehen-anhören-anfassen / art to look at, listen to, and feel) which Geldmacher co-founded with Edmund Kieselbach and Rolf Glasmeier. Created in the late 1960s, the work titles of the edition objects that were now also done as Multiples often implied playful, subversive references to current economic and political aspects (GM-Aktie / GM Share, 1968; Geldmacher 1 / Moneymaker 1, 1968).
Some of the works were published at the Edition MAT (Multiplication d’Art Transformable). With Geldmacher 6 (1970), television technology also became part of the objects some of which were built into transparent Plexiglas casings.
Another aspect of Geldmacher’s democratic, audience-related notion of art that positioned itself vis à vis the present, were joint artist actions and interviews reflecting on the erasure of the boundaries between art and life, art and politics, and pointed towards the commodity character of art (Umfrage Kunst als Ware / Interview Art as Commodity, 1971). Geldmacher’s works were therefore comparable to Beuys’ artistic-political activities at the time. Further works positioned in this liminal area were architectonic designs for public space, among them the design of a pedestrian bridge done in 1972 (Steglitzer Kreisel), but also the oversized, lit everyday objects with music by musicians like Gil Evans or Udo Lindenberg (Bleistift mit Spitzer / Pencil with Sharpener,1975; Waschbecken mit Spiegel / Sink with Mirror, 1976).
In the 1980s Geldmacher’s sculptures showed links between light objects and painting, light source and wooden picture supports (Ohne Titel (Amok ) / Untitled,1983). Sometimes these sculptures reminded of Dadaist object compositions (Ohne Titel (Sprossenobjekt) / Untitled, 1985), sometimes they also represented assemblages with sign-like graphical character. Geldmacher’s musical interests also remained important and helped shape his work. With transparent speakers or the work Jean-Michel-Jarre: Oxagene (1985), he developed objects that generated or transmitted sound and music. Moreover, together with Edmund Kieselbach he also integrated these objects into larger spatial as well as light and sound installations (Rauminstallation I / Space Installation I, 1987; Heller Klang / Bright Sound, 1987). Again in cooperation with Mariotti, Geldmacher has since the 1990s developed large, solar-operated objects and colorful light sculptures to be installed in public space (Super-Lucciola, 1991; Euro, 1999; Firefly-Lichtinseln, 2002).
Among the institutions where Geldmacher’s light objects were exhibited in recent years, are the Kunstverein Emsdetten (2001), the Neue Galerie Kassel (2002), the sculpture museum Glaskasten in Marl (»Licht-Klang-Medien« / »Light-Sound-Media«), the Kunstmuseum Celle (2004), and the ZKM Karlsruhe (»Lichtkunst aus Kunstlicht / «Light Art from Art(ificial) Light»).
Since 1997 Klaus Geldmacher has lived and worked in Mülheim an der Ruhr (Ruhr region).
Kunst und Politik. Klaus Geldmacher, von 1940 bis heute: Ausst.-Kat. Kunstmuseum Mülheim an der Ruhr, Mülheim 2000
Banerjee, R.; Geldmacher, K. (Hg.): Leuchtmontagen. Ein erotischer Konsens, Berlin 1995
Schüppenhauer, Chr.; Schmid, Karlheinz: Klaus Geldmacher: Lampenfieber – Tonstörung. Licht- und Klangobjekte 1986 — 1988, Köln 1988