until 22.04. | #3817ARTatBerlin |Contemporary Fine Arts presents the exhibition “Robert” starting March 18, 2023 (vernissage: March 17) by artist Christa Dichgans.
Throughout her artistic career, Christa Dichgans’ work was characterized by two things: the representation of reality and its condensation in painting. It is precisely this ambivalence that marked her rise to become the grande dame of German Pop Art, a nobilization that was regrettably only bestowed upon her towards the end of her life. On the one hand, the precise and decisive lines of the accumulations in her toy still lifes circumscribed the shiny objects as they were – at the same time, they alluded to the very real conditions of 1960s mass production and consumerism that had produced these accumulations in the first place.
However, to paraphrase a 1990s catalog of Dichgans’ work, “before we live in an external world, we live in an internal world.” When she gave birth to her son while still a student, her parental and artistic aspirations inevitably became intertwined, and so after her son’s birth she began to explore toys. The works shown here, the Robert cycle, were created when her son Robert was a toddler and Dichgans herself was still studying at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin. The paintings depict scenes from her son’s everyday life-and from her own-as she navigates the art world of the time and begins her own journey as an artist, young woman, and mother.
Years later, Dichgans recalled her teacher Fred Thieler (1916-1999), whose influence on her work she disputed, but stressed how important it was that he allowed his students to work from home. It was during these years and under these conditions that Dichgans created the works shown in the exhibition, carefully trying to transfer her immediate surroundings to canvas. The environment was the living room of her apartment on Fasanenstraße. It was 1964, the year her husband Karl Horst Hödicke, along with Markus Lüpertz and others, founded Großgörschen 35, an all-male artists’ community in a rented space in a vacant factory floor in Berlin Schöneberg.
Independent of Christa’s own political leanings and claims to truth, these works paint a picture of living and working conditions for women in 1960s Germany. In a way, Dichgans was glad to have a space, even if it wasn’t just her own. The messy interiors crammed with Robert’s toys appear in her later work only as roomless piles of consumption. The interior scenes in Stretcher and Crib or Two Dolls with their floral wallpaper stand in stark contrast to the plain white backgrounds on which she would later store her toys. The floral wallpapers, however, also anticipate the interest in abundance, multiplicity, and multiplicity that will become her main concern, thus at the same time testifying to the interior design of West German households of the time.
The clear and sure lines of her Pop language are not yet manifest here. In these early paintings, a tendency toward abstraction is evident, blurring the boundaries between the objects depicted and eluding a clear demarcation between still life and genre scene, between objects and people, a phenomenon that also testifies to a preoccupation with the French Nabis at the end of the 19th century. The paintings of her playing son are equally playful and full of movement toward artistic maturity and independence. They are marked by an engagement with her neighbor and loved ones, and consequently with herself as an artist and as a human being.
Opening: Friday, 17. March 2023, from 6 to 8 pm.
Exhibition dates: Saturday, March 18 to Saturday, April 22, 2023.
Image credits: ROBERT MIT DREIRAD 1965, Acrylic on cotton, 133 x 98 cm
Exhibition Christa Dichgans – CFA Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst – Contemporary Art | Exhibition Berlin Galleries | ART at Berlin