Gerhard Richter, Ohne Titel (1.2.88), 1988 10 cm x 15 cm, Oil on colour photograph, Saint Louis Art Museum.
Gerhard Richter, German, born 1932; Untitled (4.10.85), #1, 1985; graphite on paper; 8 1/4 x 11 11/16 inches; Private Collection 2008.122.
Herta Müller (German, born 1955), Untitled (1.12.2007), 2007, Charcoal, oil paint, and beeswax on paper, 18-7/8 x 21-9/16", Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Herta Müller 3:2008.
Hanne Darboven (German, born 1941), Untitled from the series 35 x 35, 1968, Ink on graph paper, 29-1/2 x 29-13/16 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of Betsy Millard, the Earl and Betsy Millard Collection 33:2003.
Anselm Kiefer (German, born 1945), The Journey of the Nibelungen to Etzel, 1980-81, Book of gelatin silver prints with gouache, oil, and graphite mounted on cardboard; open: 23-1/16 x 32-11/16", Private Collection 2008.120.
Sigmar Polke (German, born 1941), Chair, 1965, Watercolor and gouache on paper; 22-13/16 x 17-13/16 inches, Private Collection 2008.132.
Sigmar Polke (German, born 1941), Liebespaar, 1967, varnish; ballpen on canvas, double-sided painted, 170 x 130 cm, Collection Reiner Speck.
Joseph Beuys, Iphigenia/Titus Andronicus, 1985, Photographic transparency and negative with oil paint in steel, glass, and felt frame; 28 x 21-1/4 x 2 inches; Saint Louis Art Museum, Gift of the Honorable and Mrs. Thomas F. Eagleton 596:1998.
Sigmar Polke, German, born 1941; Untitled, 1998-99; Acrylic on paper; 78-9/16 x 58-7/8 inches; Anabeth and John Weil 2008.136.
Georg Baselitz (German, born 1938), Untitled from the Hero Series, 1965, Gouache, ink, graphite, and oil pastel on paper; 25-15/16 x 19", Saint Louis Art Museum, Museum Shop Fund 11:1994.
A. R. Penck (German, born 1939), Untitled (Self-portrait), 1981, Watercolor on paper, 15-7/8 x 11-1/2 inches, Lent by Mrs. Barbara Eagleton in memory of her husband the Honorable Thomas F. Eagleton 2008.147.
Joseph Beuys, We Are the Revolution (La rivoluzione siamo Noi), 1972; Screen print from a photograph by Giancarlo Pancaldi; screen print with handwritten text and ink stamp on polyester sheet; 75-11/16 x 39-5/8", Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in Saint Louis, University purchase, Charles H. Yalem Art Fund, 1993 2008.125.
St. Louis Art Museum
One Fine Arts Drive
Main Exhibition Galleries
The Immediate Touch: German, Austrian and Swiss Drawings from St. Louis Collections, 1946-2007
June 29-September 7, 2008
The Immediate Touch: German, Austrian and Swiss Drawings from St. Louis Collections, 1946-2007 includes more than 120 provocative works of art created after World War II by 37 German-speaking artists. Featuring works by influential artists such as Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Hanne Darboven, Anselm Kiefer, Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Arnulf Rainer, Gerhard Richter and Dieter Roth, the exhibition includes private explorations into the aesthetics of the drawn line, preparatory sketches for sculptures and highly finished works that are the size and scale of large contemporary paintings.
Selected largely from the Museum’s collection and local private collections, these works reveal the foresight of St. Louis collectors. Under the stewardship of a group of perceptive art collectors, directors and curators, St. Louis has become a gathering place for important works by both internationally known artists and artists who until very recently have gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream art market.
Of the 32 living artists featured in the exhibition, 25 were interviewed by Sydney Norton, a researcher in the department of prints, drawings and photographs at the Saint Louis Art Museum. Norton traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland to personally speak with these artists, documenting the personal stories behind their works. The Museum has written and produced a catalogue that incorporates this intensive research.
Georg Baselitz was born Hans-Georg Kern on January 23, 1938, in Deutschbaselitz, Saxony, la part of the German Democratic Republic. In 1956, Baselitz studied painting in East Berlin at the Academy of Visual and Applied Arts (Hochschule für Bildende und Angewandte Kunst).
After expulsion for "socio-political" immaturity, he pursued his art studies in 1957 under the Art Informel painter Hann Trier at Academy of Visual Arts (Hochschule der Bildenden Künste) in West Berlin. During this period he changed his name to Baselitz, assuming the name of his birthplace.
In 1961, together with fellow student Eugen Schönebeck, Baselitz organized his first exhibition and issued a manifesto, Pandämonium, followed by a second version in 1962. Already in his early work Baselitz rejected leading styles of Socialist Realism and Art Informel, opting instead for a more expressive form of representational painting. In 1963, Baselitz’s inaugural one-man show at the gallery of Michael Werner and Benjamin Katz in West Berlin caused a public scandal when two of his paintings were confiscated on a charge of obscenity. Police closed the exhibition.
After moving from Berlin to Osthofen, near Worms, in 1966, Baselitz created his first woodcuts and Fracture Paintings, in which the compositional motifs were severed into individual components. The “fracture” was the artist’s first attempt to reduce the narrative significance of the object.
Baselitz continued to pursue this approach until 1969, when he began to make paintings in which the motif was shown upside down. This effort to disrupt the unity of the pictorial space in order to highlight other compositional elements such as form, color and gesture has remained a central focus in Baselitz’s paintings and is seen in Elke in Armchair and (Untitled) Eagle, two of four works featured in this exhibition.
At 39, Baselitz started working as a professor, first at State Academy of Creative Arts (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste) in Karlsruhe (1977-82), and later at Academy of Visual Arts (Hochschule der Bildenden Künste) in West Berlin, from which he resigned in 1988. He was reappointed to Karlsruhe Academy in 1992.
Georg Baselitz currently lives and works in Derneburg, Germany, and in Imperia, on the Italian Riviera.
Joseph Beuys was born in Krefeld, Germany, on May 12, 1921. As a young man he studied to become a physician but had to abandon his career plans in 1940 when he was drafted by the German army to serve as a radio operator and combat pilot. Upon his return from the war, Beuys enrolled at the State Art Academy (Staatliche Kunstakademie) at Düsseldorf to study sculpture under Joseph Enseling and Ewald Mataré. During this time the artist met the brothers Franz Joseph and Hans van der Grinten, who organized Beuys’ first one-person show in Kranenburg in 1953.
In the early 1960s, Düsseldorf developed into an important center for contemporary art, with Beuys emerging as an integral member of the Fluxus movement. Their activities, aimed at blurring the boundaries between life and art, further inspired Beuys to generate his own performances: he began staging “actions” that incorporated large-scale sculptures, small objects, drawings and installations. During the 1960s the artist also started referring to an experience that occurred during a mission in the winter of 1943, when he said that his plane crashed in the Crimea, a desolate region in southern Russia. The injured Beuys had been discovered in deep snow by a group of nomads who looked after him for days, treating his injuries with animal fat and wrapping him in felt to keep him warm. The event was a formative one for Beuys and led to the frequent use of felt and fat in his work.
Beuys gave landmark performances and lectures during the 1960s and 1970s. These activities and their documentation hold an important place in his larger oeuvre. Beuys often used blackboards during his lectures and actions to illustrate his thought process. In addition to documenting his actions, his blackboards are individual expressive objects with their own formal qualities. In his larger body of work, the blackboards occupy a space between the drawings and sculptures.
Appointed Professor of Monumental Sculpture at the Düsseldorf State Art Academy in 1961, Beuys’ charismatic presence and innovative approach to art influenced generations of students. In October 1972, Beuys was dismissed amidst great controversy over his insistence that admission to the art school be open to anyone. The same year he founded the Free International University (Freie Internationale Universität), which emphasized his belief that creativity is within everyone’s reach.
Beuys’ ongoing commitment to social and political reforms found expression in the founding of several activist groups: in 1967, the German Student Party; in 1970, the Organization for Direct Democracy; and in 1979, the Green Party. The last two decades of his life were marked by numerous exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States, including a large retrospective of his work held at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1979. Beuys represented Germany at Venice Biennale in 1976 and 1980, and his work was exhibited at six consecutive Documenta exhibitions in Kassel from 1964 to 1992.
Eight of Beuys’ works are on view in this exhibition, including Urbis II, a blackboard on which Beuys drew, with white chalk, words and diagrams of social structures.
Joseph Beuys died on January 23, 1986, in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Anselm Kiefer was born on March 8, 1945, in Donaueschingen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. In 1965, he was admitted to Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg, where he studied law, romance languages and literature. The very next year he abandoned plans in order to pursue an art degree at the academies in Freiburg and Karlsruhe. In 1970, Kiefer transferred to State Art Academy (Staatliche Kunstakademie) in Düsseldorf, where he met Joseph Beuys.
Kiefer is Beuys’ most famous student. He adopted Beuys’ sense of responsibility toward social change and sought to address the guilt of the generation of Germans involved in World War II. Kiefer challenged the taboos of the post-war period, which included anything associated with National Socialism and with Hitler in particular.
Kiefer’s version of history painting is not based on narrative and tradition, but rather an attempt to work with symbols and words in a landscape that evokes a period of time or historical personage. During 1969 Kiefer gained prominence as an artist with his photo series Occupations (Besetzungen). These staged tableaux show Kiefer in the infamous Nazi Sieg heil salute in various locations throughout Switzerland, Italy and France. Occupations became Kiefer’s first attempt to encourage a dialogue with the past.
In 1971 Kiefer moved to Hornbach in Odenwald, where he began to develop a visual vocabulary that not only addressed issues of recent German history, but also incorporated iconography of Nordic mythology, literary and biblical themes and Jewish mysticism. His explorations resulted in heavily textured, large-scale artworks created with unconventional yet symbolic materials such as lead, tar, cloth, sand, pottery, wire and straw. Kiefer invited further contextual interpretations of the depicted subject matter by inserting writing into his works.
Kiefer’s investigations of issues such as national identity and heritage, memory, alchemy and mysticism have compelled him to experiment with book-making as another vehicle of expression.
Seven of Kiefer’s works are featured in this exhibition, including two important books: The Journey of the Nibelungen to Etzel and Lilith. In Lilith, dated 1990, he adhered sand, ashes, milkweed and other organic material onto photographs to retell the story of Lilith, the first wife of Adam according to the Jewish mystical tradition known as the Cabala. The strewn ashes signify Lilith’s exile in the desert; the milkweed, which travels in the wind, attests to her status as a demon of the winds. By applying the organic materials with grand sweeps across the page and creating flashes of light by manipulating the photographic emulsions, Kiefer is able to evoke the very acts of creation and destruction he portrays.
Kiefer lives and works in Barjac, France.
Herta Müller was born in Bottrop, Germany, in 1955 and trained in painting and drawing at the Folkwang School in Essen.
A delicate balance exists between Müller’s sparse forms and the expanse of white paper from which they emerge. Silhouettes of twisted branches, wind-blown grasses and other natural phenomena are recognizable in the lines and shapes of her works. Yet these forms are mere echoes of their muses found in nature.
Having rejected figuration long ago, Müller feels that concrete forms are not sufficient to express her ideas: “These drawings don’t relate directly to the real world,” Müller said. “My attempt is rather of a spiritual nature … Inflections develop, based on the way the lines and colors are arranged. They can accent tensions, harmonies, lightness, heaviness or restraint.”
The artist applies beeswax, oil paint and charcoal to both paper and canvas to produce lines, colors and shapes that convey her subjective interpretations of the natural environment. The stratifications created by broken lines of varying widths and sizes, as well as the compositional accents that develop as a result of the way the lines and colors are arranged, give way to a feeling of organic movement and the metamorphosis of old forms into new ones.
Müller’s abstract renderings of scenes of nature serve as an intriguing foil to the predominantly figural works of this exhibition. Müller has rejected the use of formal or recognizable figures in her work, believing that these are too literal to capture her intangible ideas, and her compositions are intentionally simple. Indeed, the artist’s liberation from naturalistic representation encourages us to respond subjectively without being bound to defined figures or content. “I would like to offer viewers a free realm, where they can develop their own sensations and perceptions. That is why I seldom title my works.”
Müller teaches at the College of Fine Arts (Hochschule der Bildenden Künste) in Berlin and has had numerous exhibitions in Germany, Austria and France. She is represented in German public and private collections but is still relatively unknown in the United States. Two drawings by Müller have been included in this exhibition, one of which was given to the Saint Louis Art Museum by the artist.
Müller currently lives and works in Berlin.
Sigmar Polke was born in Oels, present-day Olesnica, Poland, on February 13, 1941. After growing up in the eastern part of Germany, he and his family moved in 1953 to Willich in West Germany. At the beginning of his career, Polke apprenticed as a glass painter before enrolling in the State Art Academy (Staatliche Kunstakademie) in Düsseldorf in 1961. In 1963, alongside fellow students Gerhard Richter, Manfred Kuttner and Konrad Lueg, Polke instigated a Demonstration for Capitalist Realism. This ironic commentary on the market-driven forces of Germany’s “economic miracle” was being touted less than ten years after WWII as a result of currency reform, elimination of price controls, reduction of marginal taxes and the United States’ Marshall Plan that gave large loans and monetary gifts to Germany.
Polke’s early work incorporated the banal imagery and clichés of everyday life. Several drawings illustrate Polke’s shorthand spoofs on milk and cigarette ads, which require an ironic attitude toward both commodity worship and the art market’s idea of proper subject matter and artistic training. In contrast to his American contemporaries, Polke commented on the themes of modern commercialism, playfully mocking the viewer’s perception of material culture and consumer ideology.
In the 1980s, Polke began experimenting with various types of technical manipulation; he attempted to change materials by exposing them to light, moisture and heat, thus incorporating the element of chance. Throughout his career the artist has experimented with a wide variety of themes and techniques in an attempt to reinterpret various media and unveil the relationship between art and life.
Thirteen of Polke’s works are featured in this exhibition, including the drawing and sculpture Apparatus Whereby One Potato Can Orbit Another. Both show a kitchen stool with two potatoes underneath it and a small motor situated on the seat. The wire attached to the motor extends through the center of the seat, halfway down to the floor, where the wire bends to the viewer’s left. Impaled at the end of the wire is a potato. A second potato is directly in the center of the floor beneath the stool. At a push of a button, the motor turns the wire and the satellite potato begins to orbit around the other potato beneath the stool as if it were the center of the universe. In the Apparatus, both drawn and actualized, Polke fooled with the idea of Marcel Duchamp’s very first readymade Bicycle Wheel, which was a modified stool on which Duchamp placed a bicycle wheel. Polke also played with Beuys’ concept of turning organic materials into substances charged with the positive healing energies of the universe.
Sigmar Polke currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany.
Arnulf Rainer was born on December 8, 1929, in Baden, Austria. His interest in expressing madness and extreme emotion through art relates directly to the horrors taking place during his lifetime in Austria under the Nazi regime.
Rainer was almost entirely self-taught. Although he attended two different schools in 1949 and 1950, he spent, in total, less than a week in formal education. Rainer first exhibited his work in Vienna with the Hundsgruppe (the Dog Pack), a group he had helped establish, in 1950. His early work was inspired by Surrealism; after a 1951 trip to Paris, he was influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel.
Between 1953 and 1968, Rainer created his first large group of abstract paintings, The Overpaintings (Übermalungen), which, as the name implies, were painted on top of existing images, either his own or those of another artist. Rainer frequently worked on these paintings for a long period of time, building up layers of pigment to create texture. In the mid-1960s, Rainer displayed an interest in religious themes with the creation of a series of paintings over crucifixes. Notably, it was at this same time that he actively began collecting artworks by the insane and experimented with hallucinogenic drugs, as an attempt to further explore extreme emotional states divorced from rationality.
Two of Rainer’s works are featured in the exhibition, including The Black, Yellow, Red Mouth and Crucifix from the series Grünewald, inspired by Matthias Grünewald’s 16th-century altarpiece.
Gerhard Richter was born on February 9, 1932 in Dresden, Germany. Between 1952 and 1957, he studied painting at the Art Academy (Kunstakademie) in Dresden, until he settled in the West German city of Düsseldorf in 1961.
For the next two years Richter studied at the Düsseldorf State Art Academy (Staatliche Kunstakademie) under an Art Informel painter, Karl Otto Götz.
At his first exhibition in West Germany with Manfred Kuttner, held in 1962 at the Galerie Junge Kunst in Fulda, Richter exhibited early work that was still primarily inspired by Art Informel.
The very next year he abandoned this early influence to introduce a photo-painting style, in which he appropriated motifs from his own photographs and found images of landscapes, portraits, advertisements and aerial views. Together with his fellow students Sigmar Polke, Konrad Lueg, and Manfred Kuttner, Richter instigated a Demonstration for Capitalist Realism in 1963 at a furniture store in Düsseldorf; their demonstration served both as an interpretation of the Pop Art phenomenon and as a refusal to conform to the leading art movements of the time. In the 1960s and early 1970s Richter’s paintings were distinguished by the blurring of the depicted subjects, a technique by which he meant to comment on the transience of human perception.
In the late 1960s Richter started moving away from representational art to explore more theoretical issues of painting. After working on the project of color charts in the early 1970s, the artist created his first Gray Paintings, in which his primary objective was to experiment with various textures and brushstrokes. At the same time, Richter also worked on townscapes that were informed by photographs, which helped blur the borders between abstraction and representation. In recent years the artist’s work has continued to function on parallel tracks, moving between the representational and theoretical syntax.
Eight of his works are featured in the exhibition. In Untitled, 1970, from the series Un-painting, he glides his paintbrush, layer over layer, through the viscous gray paint, creating a baroque sensuality of curves overlapping each other; the end-result is a gray paint so thick that it casts actual shadows, an odd characteristic for a small work on paper.
In 1971, Richter was appointed professor at the Düsseldorf State Art Academy. He moved to Cologne in 1983, where he still lives and works.
Born June 23, 1937, Max Uhlig has lived in Dresden, Germany his entire life. As a young man he trained as a sign-painter and draftsman. He attended the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Dresden (1955-1960) and the Deutsche Akademie der Künste (1961-1963) where he studied under the Expressionist painter Max Schwimmer and the printmaker Hans Theo Richter.
After the mid-1960s, Uhlig developed his hallmark drawing and painting style in which he creates numerous bundles of lines with a Chinese brush. This complex network of brushstrokes captures the inner spiritual workings of the people, places and forms depicted. Outward appearances become secondary.
Uhlig’s drawings often depict figures but reject narrative elements; above all, Uhlig has shunned the political subject matter and decorative arts that might have gained official approval while he was a citizen of the German Democratic Republic. Rather than studying painting under the restrictive Socialist Realists, artists who were championed by the GDR government, Uhlig chose to work within the comparatively free atmosphere of the graphic arts. In the 1980s, he created a series of double portraits, in which the artist worked to capture the sitters’ interpersonal feelings and tensions, as opposed to their actual physiognomic features.
Seven of Uhlig’s drawings are featured in this exhibition, including Head, Self Portrait and Portrait of Two Friends. Six of these works were generously given to the Museum by the artist.
Rudi Tröger, Erwin Pfrang and Frank Günzel are three gifted artists from Munich who were all trained at Munich Art Academy (Kunstakademie). Tröger, the eldest of the three, was born in 1929 and experienced the war as a boy in Marktleuthen, a rural village in northern Bavaria. It was during that chaotic period that he received his first artistic training. The young artist entered the Academy of Visual Arts in Munich in 1949 at a time when the building was little more than a bombed-out shell. He trained under Hans Gött and Erich Glette, painters who belonged to the last generation of Munich Impressionists, a group that was particularly inspired by Paul Cézanne. Both of Tröger’s teachers worked within a tradition of restrained modernity and believed in combining solid craftsmanship with creative individual expression.