boot Duesseldorf 1999
Europe's largest and most exciting International boat show opens in Duesseldorf, Germany,  Saturday, January 16th and runs through Sunday, January 24, 1999.  Today's report:



boot Duesseldorf 1999


North Entrance Foyer and Gallery, boot Duesseldorf '99
Photo © 1999 Messe Duesseldorf GmbH

A Royal Presentation and Tango-Bravo-Charlie
Posted Friday, January 22, 1999, 11:00 AM Eastern

DUESSELDORF (The Boating Channel/Gregory Hahn) - German artist Pellegrino Ritter has invented a new genre of occasional iconography.  It's called Flag Art -- and he had already staked claims with it in Sidney, Boulder, Berlin, Muenster and New York before moving on to the North Rhine-Westphalian capital.  Ritter opened his second-floor exhibition at the north entrance of the boot Duesseldorf 1999 in grand style with a presentation of two flag paintings based on the letter "C" and the letter "G" to His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.  Now Ritter's taken Stockholm.

Ritter's Flag Art takes up the international maritime flag alphabet.  But that alphabet is more the stuff of poetry than arbitrary code for the Muenster born artist.


King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden.  Photo © 1999 TBC.

Ritter's sometimes tattered, torn and textured acrylic and mixed-media letters combine such modernist techniques as the incorporation of found objects and collage with playful and unpretentious improvisations on the maritime alphabet's fixed color schemes and designs.  "When I first saw the flag alphabet," Ritter commented for The Boating Channel, "I was moved by the strong forms which reminded me a great deal of the work of Malevich or Lissitzky -- the Constructivism and Suprematism of the 1920s -- although the flag alphabet is older and was never viewed as art.  Then came the fact that these were, after all, letters and you can write words and short phrases with them."

The Charlie and Golf presented to the Swedish king illustrate both the occasional nature of Ritter's Flag Art and the genre's symbolic whimsy in incorporating, for example, a section of birchbark taken from a tree in Ritter's backyard, copies of ancient Nordic cave paintings, reproductions of commemorative stamps, the royal coat of arms, a Swedish traffic sign pictogram, and a slice of Wasa Knaeckebroed affixed and painted over in one of the yellow stripes ... "bits and pieces of Swedish culture."

After the royal entourage, boot Duesseldorf officials and the accompanying swarm of press photographers departed down the long escalator, Ritter relaxed with a cigarette and joined his guests in a champagne reception.  How did he come to be named "Pellegrino" rather than "Wolfgang" or "Helmut" or "Karl-Heinz"?  "It's obviously an Italian name . . . my parents got it from the brand name of an Italian mineral water." 


Presentation of the Flag Art letters 'c' and 'g' to Sweden's King Carl XVI Gustaf at boot Duesseldorf 1999 .  Photo © 1999 Messe Duesseldorf GmbH

One of the guests quipped that Ritter should translate James Joyce's "Ulysses" into the flag alphabet.  But Ritter, who lives transatlantically with a U.S. base in New York, has better things to do including a major project headed for Broadway this September.  "It is intriguing, though," Ritter explained, "to translate words or short phrases, company logos, initials.  Each combination of letters evokes its own feeling.  A series of three, for example, can be recombined in many different ways and each time there's a different aesthetic sense."


Then it happened:   inspiration struck!  And Ritter began to rearrange a section of the exhibition.  Our logo.  Tango-Bravo-Charlie!


Pellegrino Ritter and Tango-Bravo-Charlie.  Photo © 1999 TBC