until 23.01. | #3774ARTatBerlin | Contemporary Fine Arts presents from 23 January 2023the exhibition “Man Should” by the artist Georg Baselitz.
At 85, Baselitz is still active in his own visual world. When did this world first come into being? When he attended the exhibition of American paintings in Berlin in 1958? On his first trip to Paris in 1961? In Berlin he encountered painters who had taken their leave of Europe, while Paris offered a cosmos of artists and literati who would henceforth accompany and inspire Baselitz: Antonin Artaud, Wols, Fautrier. The groundwork for two lines in his work was laid at that time – his exploration of the American understanding of what a “picture” can be and the Paris scene, which was influenced by Existentialism in the broadest sense.
These preliminary phases were followed by the big bang: Die große Nacht im Eimer, which caused a scandal in 1963 Berlin. A mutilated man with an oversized penis that resembles a truncheon was destined to bring trouble in post-war Germany, a country that was only just beginning to deal with the consequences of the Nazi era and the second world war.
It was the first time that Baselitz showed himself to the public to be the dauntless, fearless, and “awkward” artist he described himself to be. But that was only the beginning. Since 1969 he has been presenting his motifs – not his paintings, it must be noted – upside down. This was initially dismissed as a trick. But Baselitz remained unflustered. He continued to turn his motifs on their heads, allowing him an undreamt-of freedom in composition and as an artist, which he used for a far-reaching exploration of the possibilities offered by painting – something that had never been investigated to that extent before.
In 1982, around the time of the “Zeitgeist” exhibition at Berlin’s Martin Gropius Bau that Baselitz was a prominent part of, he changed his colours towards the aggressive and rugged. He identified his new attitude to painting with a painting tradition that ranged from Munch to Malewitsch, from Kirchner to Strindberg, and from Schönberg to Soutine. During the ’90s, memories from layers of the biographical and the human-existential thrust their way into his work. When the artist’s first large American retrospective was shown at the Guggenheim Museum in 1995, quotes from the Heroes paintings turned up in large horizontal formats. In 1990, the sculpture group Women of Dresden had already mirrored reflexes of the past within the climate of German reunification.
Another abrupt step was taken with the concept for Remix, which he began in 2005. It led many to shake their heads – asking themselves how an artist can repeat his own motifs without compromising himself. In fact he however found his way into good company, as Picasso and Léger, Munch and Schwitters all repeated many of their earlier works intentionally and productively. In face of his own ruthlessness towards himself and the art business he encountered, Baselitz pursued this strategy for a number of years resulting in relaxed visual solutions free of compulsion. Works from that series were the subject of the artist’s first exhibition at CFA in 2007.
Baselitz, however, did not settle with his reworkings. This is apparent in his latest, surprising work phase in which paintings emerge with the unusual life and varied career path of Hannah Höch in mind, a strong dash of Dadaism evident in them – with ladies’ nylons and fabrics integrated as pictorial and structural elements. Frivolous? Baselitz trusts in his unmistakeable visual instinct and the potential of the provocative that is inherent to his invention.
“A few years ago, Hannah Höch came to my mind with her funny legs, her stocking pictures. … I had never dared to make collages before. I found the method wonderful. But the issue was: How could I use it with my silly painting? Then I had a dream about the stockings,” Baselitz said in an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung last year, “I used to make paintings with shoes, which referred to Frida Kahlo.” That the stocking paintings refer to Hannah Höch, is hardly acknowledged. “Her great work with collages is almost invisible today,” the artist notes.
This is the first time that Baselitz applies the principle of collage, paying homage to an equally radical and free artist. The effect of bodies in dissolution, Baselitz’s memento mori, that has dominated his painterly work in recent years, is intensified by the layering of collage elements such as stockings and scraps of fabric. The bodily decay is thwarted as well as dramatized by the imperishable thingness of even the most absurd objects.
For him, his work is bound up with resistance and recalcitrance, which of necessity predate the emergence of the desired freedom, because this is neither given nor is it prerequisite. Rather, it is brought forth by an irrepressible will. And only from this can the work come into being. This does not obey an aesthetic self-movement, but instead is born of acts of will that are abrupt and unpredictable. This energy, by which Baselitz is guided, remains unbroken, even at 85.
Vernissage: Monday, 23 January 2023, from 6 to 8 p.m.
Ausstellungsdaten:Monday, 23 January until Saturday, 11 March 2023.
Caption Title: Georg Baselitz “Amerikanische Variante”, 2021, Oil, Dispersion binder, fabric and nylon tights on canvas, 305 x 507 cm – 120 1/8 x 199 5/8 in
Exhibition Georg Baselitz – CFA Berlin | Zeitgenössische Kunst – Contemporary Art | Ausstellungen Berlin Galerien | ART at Berlin