Schabbach Wins Award, Plans Sarasota Project
German artist R.O. Schabbach will take a break from setting up his permanent residence in Sarasota for a brief sojourn home to receive this year’s Euro Culture Award from his native German district of Bernkastel-Wittlich before returning to Sarasota to construct his latest outdoor art installation amongst the industrial environs on 12th Street. The award, presented every two years, recognizes outstanding artistic achievement and international acclaim.
“Now that I’m ready to leave Germany, all of the sudden I get the phone call,” said Schabbach laughing. A painter and installation artist known for bold use of color and projecting the images large-scale across the built environment for immersive installations, Schabbach's work has exhibited in celebrated venues across the world, including museums in Malta, Cairo, Paris and Odessa, Ukraine and in US institutions such as the Guggenheim Collection. Beginning with the late actor Anthony Quinn, Schabbach's work also began finding its way into the private collections of such celebrities as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, pop icon Madonna and broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite. The Euro Culture Award, however, will be the first recognition of this sort from the artist's hometown. “This, for me, counts double because it’s coming from the region where I lived,” said Schabbach, who continually watched the award pass by, despite the proliferation of his public art and exhibitions. “You start wondering if what you’re doing is recognized. I’m very happy for this. Very honored.”
Schabbach flies to Germany to receive the award but is already eyeing his return to Sarasota and plans for his next installation. Sarasotans can currently view his smaller-scale work on display at Light Up Your Life on North Tamiami Trail but perhaps more vividly remember his most recent public exhibition, Love and Light for World Peace, on May 27, where Schabbach illuminated the Herald-Tribune building with multicolored projections on the ceilings and columns. With sharp lines demarcating geometric shapes into a busy but balanced composition and a color palette reminiscent of a circus aesthetic, the goal is always “to bring a little peace into this world,” he said. The lines tell the story, he added, “but the emotional part is the color.”
For his next project, Schabbach takes aim at an industrial lot on 12th Street between Gillespie Avenue and North Orange Avenue. The owners are game, he said, but possible complications could arise with use of the space—complications which could eventually involve the Department of Homeland Security. But the city has always been “very cooperative,” said an unconcerned Schabbach, waving away possible involvement of the federal government as though a gadfly. “We find ways. It’s no problem.” The planned unveiling for this latest project will be early to mid-July, according to the artist.
Pictured: R.O. Schabbach amidst one of his light installations. Photo courtesy of the artist.