The paintings and sculptures from Modern Art preserved at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart are more than a collection of important individual works. Indeed, they represent an exemplary cross-section of the many artists‘ groups and stylistic currents of the first decades of the 20th century. The international scope and quality of the classical Modern Art collection today is the product of the selective acquisition policy pursued consistently since the end of World War II.
Unfortunately, the works by Barlach, Beckmann, Dix, Felixmüller, Heckel, Hofer, Kanoldt, Kirchner, Klee, Lehmbruck, Mueller, Nolde, Rohlfs, Schlemmer, and Schmidt-Rottluff acquired during the 1920s fell victim, without exception, to the National Socialist campaign against »degenerate art«. Only a very few of these works, including Beckmann’s »Self-Portrait with Red Scarf«, reappeared after the war and could be repurchased.
In 1945 one was confronted with not only the ruins of the two museum buildings (the Gallery of Paintings and Sculptures and the Crown Prince’s Palace (Kronprinzenpalais) with the Department of Prints and Drawings) but also with a slate virtually wiped clean of modern art as well. When the possibility of new acquisitions became conceivable again in the late 1940s, initial activity was concentrated on collecting new works by artists banned during the Third Reich, particularly those of the German Expressionists. Enabled by funds of the State Lottery the Staatsgalerie recorded a substantial addition in 1959 with the spectacular purchase of the collection amassed by the Norwegian shipping magnate Ragnar Moltzau, which brought an ensemble of thirty French masterpieces from Impressionism to Picasso to the museum. This core collection of German and French paintings was systematically augmented and expanded to also incorporate sculptures. The acquisition of the collection of the Stuttgart industrialist Hugo Borst in 1968 integrated over 300 works of all media, among them paintings by Beckmann, Braque, Campendonk, Derain, Hodler, Klee, Macke, and Modersohn-Becker. Collection policy turned to new objectives during the 1970s and 1980s, focusing on the Bauhaus and Constructivist art on the one hand, and on the Dadaist and Surrealist movements, underrepresented in other German collections, on the other.
For the most part, developments in art during the period were propelled by groups of closely allied painters who militantly opposed prevailing aesthetic doctrine and official exhibition policy and practice. Pioneers of the three most consequential movements and alliances of the years before World War I - Fauvism, Cubism and Expressionism - were those late 19th-century masters who had abandoned Impressionism in pursuit of new objectives. These were masters such as Cézanne, Gauguin and Munch, all of whom are represented by significant works in Stuttgart.
In about 1905 the Fauvists (Savages) liberated colour from its traditional bondage to the object, a process that becomes quite evident in the works by Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, Dufy and Rouault. While these artists continued to use recognisable motifs, their approach to colour was based upon aspects of surface rhythm and harmony or dissonance, quite independent of the motifs themselves. When Matisse, for example, places a group of two figures as a triangular segment in his famous painting »La Coiffure« (1907), the seated nude and the standing young girl appear as no more than a kind of faint memory of reality composed of sweeping contours and abruptly abutting fields of colour.
Somewhat later, the liberation of form objective and spatial constraints becomes apparent in the art of the Cubists. Colour is reduced to only a few greys and browns, while forms are consolidated into blocklike volumes. The prominent features of this early phase of Cubism are found in Picasso’s »Inclined Head of a Woman«, completed in 1906. The next step involves the deconstruction of depth projection and the abandonment of the one-dimensional point of view. At this point the artist begins to add the frontal data of the visual process to the pictorial surface in succession, as does Braque in his »Still Life with Coffee Pot« (1908). The conversion of three-dimensional volumes into interpenetrating planar surface forms is exemplified in »Eggs«, a still life by Picasso’s fellow countryman Juan Gris. By 1912, in the two large »Violin« compositions of Braque and Picasso, the process has progressed to the point where the painters employ their formal codes and motif fragments freely in order to build an autonomous pictorial structure. Both of these paintings, which despite their extreme reduction reflect Braque’s essential lyricism and Picasso’s dramatic temperament, represent Cubism in its mature phase. We already recognise the first signs of the shift towards collage. Picasso’s »Violin« of 1912/13, a work assembled from cardboard and string, demonstrates how the process of dismantling the object generates the synthesis of a new pictorial reality.
Fernand Léger introduced a highly unique variant of classical Cubism by playing out the opposition of constructive surface fields and tube-shaped, voluminous motifs while incorporating colour accents reminiscent of ad posters. Pictures such as »Geometric Elements« (1913) and his »Study for ›The Card Gam‹« (1918) are reflections of the cult of machines and the functionalism and motorisation of modern urban civilisation.
Despite their radical approach to traditional modes of vision and visual representation, the Cubists, like the Fauvists before them, remained largely concerned with problems of formal design. In the case of the German Expressionists who formed the artists‘ group »Brücke« in Dresden in 1905, the new vocabulary that virtually erupted in their art was the product of an increased need for self-expression. »Anyone who expresses directly and truly what compels him to create is one of us«, proclaimed their spokesman Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. And expression unfolded in a rough, condensed array of signlike elements, in flat, bulky forms and vigorous colours without regard for painterly distinctions.
The living and working community formed by the founders of the »Brücke« which had fostered the development of their largely homogeneous style, lasted in Dresden for only four years. Its members moved to Berlin in 1911, where they attracted considerable attention through exhibitions and published editions of their work. But soon they started to pursue separate ways by developing individual artistic languages. Most of the »Brücke« paintings now at the Staatsgalerie originated during this Berlin period, with the exception of Heckel’s »Circus«, completed in 1909. Although Schmidt-Rottluff remained true to the »Brücke« style in his fjord landscape »Oppedal« of 1911, it appears clearer and more tightly structured than his earlier works. In Kirchner’s case, however, a hectic intensity conditioned by his involvement with urban themes becomes apparent in his brushwork, giving his »Friedrichstraße Berlin« of 1914, for example, its particular ecstatic quality. The two extremes of the spectrum are represented on the one hand by the restrained, sombre paintings of Otto Mueller, such as »Two Nude Girls at the Waterside«, and on the other hand by the glowing colours intensity of experience in the work of Emil Nolde, who became a popular symbol of German Expressionism with paintings like »Dancers« (1920) and his later »Lemon Grove« (1937).
In contrast to the »Brücke« in north-eastern Germany, the circle of Munich artists who gathered under the leadership of Kandinsky and Franz Marc to form »Der Blaue Reiter« in 1911 was considerably more European in orientation and maintained close contacts with the French and Russian avantgarde. The two founders presented a broad ideological program in the almanac of the same title published in 1912, focusing on themes such as the unity of the arts, a return to origins, the discovery of negro art, children’s art, and folk art and an appeal for a theory of harmony for the visual arts comparable to that which applied to music.
Above all, however, Kandinsky’s concept of »intrinsic necessity« became the guideline for a whole generation, since its objective was no longer to achieve mimesis but instead »to touch the human soul in a purposeful way«. Works by artists of »Der Blaue Reiter« now at the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, such as Jawlensky’s portrait of the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharov, entitled »The White Feather« (1909), Kandinsky’s »Improvisation 9« (1909), Marc’s varitations in »Small Blue Horses« and »Small Yellow Horses« (1911,1912), Macke’s »Promenade« (1914) and Campendonk’s »Broad Landscape with Two Women« (1919/1920), do not represent a collective style such as we find in the Dresden »Brücke« group, but they do reveal a shared synthesis of the French concept of form, eastern colour mysticism and the German-Romanticist urge to imbue soul into art as a characteristic group signet.
While »Der Blaue Reiter« strove in general for penetration into the »external world of nature« and the »internal world of experience«, Kandinsky’s emphasis shifted towards the inner world and a focus upon the »inner sound«, the colour developing without reference to the objective framework in a symphony of tones. Somewhat later, Kandinsky went on to dissolve the remaining bonds between colour and motif, allowing his colours to discharge themeselves in concentrated bundles over the pictorial surface.
Alongside Kandinsky, who made the decisive step towards abstract painting with his liberation of colour in 1911, the Austrian artist Adolf Hölzel, who began to attract a significant group of students at the Stuttgarter Akademie in 1905, deserves recognition as one of the pioneers of absolute art on the basis of his abstract paintings and his theory of formal creative resources.
The activities of the Cubists and the artists of the »Brücke«, »Der Blaue Reiter«, and the Hölzel group found a common meeting point in Berlin, where Herwarth Walden established his gallery, »Der Sturm«, an institution which contributed significantly to the breakthrough of avant-garde tendencies in Europe. Through his journal of the same name, which first appeared in 1910 and for which he engaged also Oskar Kokoschka, Walden campaigned on behalf of the new art, for which his gallery provided an exhibition forum.
Kokoschka, along with Schiele the most important representative of Viennese Expressionism, a movement influenced by Freud and Klimt, erected a homage to his discoverer Herwarth Walden in a portrait completed in 1910 and now in the possession of the Staatsgalerie. His Walden portrait and his 1911 portrait of the Viennese ministry official Dr. Hermann Schwarzwald bear witness to Kokoschka’s keen psychological insight. His »Woman with parrot« (1917) and to an even greater extent his »Woman in Blue« (1920) are indicative of the transition from the sensitive, finely drawn portraits of the pre-war years to the pasty colour painting of the 1920s.
The painting entitled »The Prophet (Double Self-Portrait)«, done in 1911 by Egon Schiele, an artist who died at an early age, is of a particularly penetrating, visionary quality. Its theme involves the motifs of the »Doppelgänger« and the dance of death, which Schiele associates with the theosophical idea of the astral body.
Walden was also the first to introduce Italian Futurism in Germany. In both their art and their manifestos, the Futurists focused upon the speed of modern urban life and the simultaneity of sense impressions on the basis of an open system of interpenetrating lines of forces and motif fragments, as in the painting »Plasticity of Lights + Speed« by Balla, a work completed in 1913. Rayonism, a Russian variant of Futurism, is documented in »Blue and Green Forest« with its widely dispersed prismatic splinters of colour, a composition by Natalia Gontcharova, which was exhibited at Walden’s »The First German Autumn Salon« in 1913.
The changes propagated by the Futurists took effect in German painting in a very different way after the end of the First World War. The purgatory of war had put an end to the lofty ascent into idealism of »Der Blaue Reiter« and destroyed the old value systems and social structures. This was the hour of the Verists and the Expressionist social critics, artists such as Grosz, Dix, Beckmann, and Hofer. Grosz, who also associated with the Berlin Dadaists, painted his whirling confusion of houses, street canyons, and grotesque urban figures in a death-dance vision in »Dedication for Oskar Panizza« in 1917. He chose to employ the Futurist techniques of dynamisation, fragmentation and simultaneity primarily for the purpose of intensifying the power of his critical statement and heightening the effect of the traumatic transformation. While Otto Dix incorporated realistic collage elements such as shreds of newspaper and banknotes into his image of the crippled »Match Seller« (1920), the horrors of war are reflected in Beckmann’s work in the gaping spatial fissures of his large »Resurrection« of 1916/18. In Beckmann’s art, represented in Stuttgart by his unsettling »Self-Portrait with Red Scarf« (1917) and other major works, including »The Theatre Box« (1928) and »Journey on the Fish« (1934), his drastic form of Verism mixed with bitter sarcasm and militant protest is joined by a symbolic-mythological dimension which removes his human figures from the context of real time to a sphere of timeless destiny.
The confining spatial perspective in Beckmann’s paintings is also related to the Italian Pittura Metafisica, an antithetical outgrowth of Futurism. The movement was founded by Giorgio de Chirico, who deals with the theme of alienation in the experience of reality with a subtle system of spatial compartmentation in his famous composition »Metaphysical Interior with Large Factory« (1916). De Chirico´s magical mystification of the world of objects proved to be a seminal impulse for the French Surrealists.
Surrealism is also rooted in the Dadaist movement, however, which incorporated elements of Futurism as well. Around 1916, the artists of Dada began to respond to the senselessness of war and its mechanisms of mass destruction and mutilation by demolishing customary, logical relationship and assembling new pictorial realities from heterogeneous fragments of reality. The global dimensions of the Dadaist revolt can be traced in the collages and objects exhibited at the Staatsgalerie. New York and Paris are represented by Duchamp, Man Ray, and Francis Picabia, Cologne by Max Ernst, Hanover by Schwitters and Zurich by Arp. What unites the Dadaists despite the great diversity of their discoveries and inventions is a poetic of irony and playfulness, of decay, fragility, and transience that emerges from unexpected confrontations and combinations of material relics and found objects.
One might regard the revival of oil painting among the Surrealists as a regressive development if it were not for the fact that they uncovered a previously unknown dimension. For although the painting technique they cultivated in the fashion of the old masters incorporated elements of collage, these are integrated so smoothly into the homogeneous medium that no seams or breaks are visible. With illusionistic perfection in the depiction of irreconcilable objects and disturbing appearances in paintings such as Max Ernst’s »St. Cecilia«, Dali’s »Sublime Moment«, Magritte’s »Apparition« or Tanguy’s »Metaphysical Landscape«, the Surrealists achieve a dreamlike effect of realism and tactile objective sharpness that gives their visions a persuasive suggestiveness. The Catalonian artist Joan Miró combines Dadaist and Surrealist elements to create a scurrilous, enigmatic system of visual poetics in paintings like »Composition in Brown and White« (1927) or later »Bird with a Silent Gaze, its Wings in Flames«.
Whereas the Surrealists overstepped the boundaries of everyday reality in order to explore the surreal quality of the visions of dreams and madness, abstract artists abandoned external appearances and conceived a symbolic language of their own. The artists‘ group and the periodical founded in the Netherlands in 1917 under the name »De Stijl« were first to reject, in a radically purist approach, any concession to aspects of representation, spatiality, spontaneity or randomness. The artist was to confine himself to the picture as a two-dimensional surface, to a very few elements of straight lines and right angles and to the primary colours red, yellow , and blue as well as the non-colours black and white. On the basis of this frugal vocabulary, Mondrian, for example, created paintings of astonishing purity, precision and proportional harmony in his two »Compositions« of 1921 and 1936, mirror images of an ideal society in which all tensions compensate and are brought into harmony.
Constructivist efforts dedicated - especially in Eastern Europe - to the development of an art based upon rational principles and tending to go beyond the narrow context of painting into the fields of architecture and industrial production, came to focus in Germany in the Bauhaus movement. Founded by the architect Walter Gropius in 1919, the »Staatliche Bauhaus Weimar« gathered all available progressive capacities. On the basis of manual craftsmanship, models for the contemporary, formally appealing and at the same time functional design of the human environment were developed. With such artists as Klee and Kandinsky, Feininger, Itten and Schlemmer, Moholy-Nagy and Albers, Gropius atrracted notable painters as masters for the individual workshops in which a new generation of »designers« was to be trained to erect the »architecture of the future«. Despite numerous attacks from the outside and controversies within, the Bauhaus engaged in activies with far-reaching consequences. Particularly following its forced move from Weimar to Dessau in 1926, these activities exercised a significant influence under the banner of »Art and Technology - a New Unity« in all areas of architecture and design.
Ideas developed at the Bauhaus are recognisable not only in the pictures of the Hungarian Moholy-Nagy that were influenced by Russian Constructivism, such as »Composition Li«, but in the paintings of Klee as well - »Oracle«, »Houses on a Hilltop«, »Jungwaldtafel« or »Quadripartite Palace«, for example - in which weightless geometric constructions or serial gridwork structures emerge. While Feininger remained essentially true to the ideal of cathedral architecture of the first Bauhaus program in crystalline and transparent compositions such as his »Barfüßerkirche in Erfurt I« (1924), Oskar Schlemmer, who served successively as director of wall design, sculpture and the Bauhaus stage, placed mankind at the focal point of his creative work. Yet unlike Beckmann and others, he did not view the human being as a medium for the expression of emotional stirrings but in a very literal sense as an »art figure« in harmony with the tectonics of pictorial space. The extensive group of works by the Stuttgart artist, comprising such paintings as »The Dancer«, »Quiet Room«, »Concentric Group«, and »Banister Scene«, but also his three-dimensional costumes in the »Figurines for the Triadic ballet« document not only the unusual diversity of Schlemmer’s oeuvre but also his own unique synthesis of figural constructivism and metaphysical aura.
Links between Schlemmer, particularly in the early work, and his fellow student Willi Baumeister, whose richly varied art is documented in a noteworthy ensemble of paintings, are apparent at several different points. Baumeister succeeded in making the transition from his figural constructivism of the period around 1920 to a symbolic-surreal form of abstraction in the late 1930s, a period during which affinities to the late work of Braque and Miró were often apparent. With compositions such as »Primal Forms«, »Aru 8«, and »Relief Dusty Pink«, Baumeister became a pioneer of Informal Art and Abstract Expressionism in post-war Germany.
The history of modern painting, in which we recognise both dialectical progression and multiple parallel developments, can be traced in the highly consequential transformations in the work of Pablo Picasso, which in turn are reflected in a number of outstanding paintings ranging from the doublesided early »Crouching Woman« (1902) to »Mother and Child (Acrobats)« (1905), »Violine Jolie Eva« (1912) to »Woman in a Chemise« (1921), in his sculptural ensemble »Bathers« (1956), and in »Luncheon on the Grass», a composition completed in 1961. Thus we conclude our briefly sketched tour through the modern art period with the controversial yet equally dominant individualist from whom the eradrew some of its most decisive impulses. [ KvM ]
At first glance we may recognize no fundamental difference between a 1936 oil painting by Mondrian and a fabric picture done by Palermo in 1968; the materials themselves are not particularly significant. Both works appear to employ a framework of vertical and horizontal lines - the dimensions of the pictorial surface - and to visualize in this way a harmonious order among their individual elements. Yet a closer comparison leads to the realization that the geometric construction has a different function in each painting. In Mondrian’s work, all of the parts relate to a conceived compositional centre, which serves as the foundation for the preceptible balance of the pictorial structure. No such hidden centre is to be found in Palermo’s picture.
Mondrian’s geometric order is composition. The parts are grouped around a centre of gravity assigned to them by the artist. Palermo’s rectangle, on the other hand, is interpretable only on the basis of immediately visible relationships. In the act of painting, Mondrian transfers his idea of harmony and balance to the canvas, where it becomes incarnate and universal. Palermo’s pictorial concept remains inseparably bound to the concrete findings and the unity of the lines of reference that derive from them. Mondrian’s composition is transparent, permitting a view of something that lies beneath it and is meant to be seen. Palermo’s pictorial rectangle depicts itself, alludes solely to itself. The selection of different materials is no coincindence: oil serves as medium for the artist’s personal statement; raw cotton is pure pictorial reality.
The art of the classical modern era, of which Mondrian’s work is an excellent example, produced a number of different yet consistently comprehensive aesthetic systems. Each of these systems is autonomous - that is, a personal creation of the respective artist; and each has ist own particular frame of reference beyond the boundaries of the picture. Whether we consider Mondrian, Duchamp or the group of »Der Blaue Reiter« - in each case the works they produced originated not only as parts comprised within an allinclusive aesthetic, but rather that aesthetic itself is part of a larger existential context. All of the aesthetic systems that emerged during the classical modern period are also universal life programmes, which explains the familiar topos of the »unity of art and life« that is an essential aspect of them all.
The art of the post-Second-World-War period has no use for the grand concepts promoting the reconciliation of art and life. Where the idea is still articulated (by Beuys, for example), it takes its point of departure only from selected aspects of reality. To an increasing degree, the art of the past fifty years describes the end of representation, the end of communicable, valid »Weltanschauungen«.
As is quite evident in the example of Palermo, the link to the sphere of life that lies beyond aesthetics - even in its self-determined form - is gone. Left to its own devices in its state of forced social isolation, art now begins to explore its own essential, intra-aesthetic logic. Its own definition has now become the object of its scrutiny. How can the individual factors involved in painting and sculpture generate aesthetic experience without pursuing a previously determined substantive direction? This question provides a simplified description of the new problems faced by art. The intra-aesthetic logic, or rather the factors which determine it, are thus something other than the »aesthetic resources« already explored as subjects in their own right in the autonomous art of classic modernism. Contemporary art does not reflect upon the »means« of achieving links to other spheres of life but concentrates instead upon the very characteristics that distinguish it from those spheres. Its objective is to develop its own language and its own utopian system of meaning from within itself.
It is indeed characteristic of contemporary art that it poses the question of its own identity in terms of distinct aesthetic aspects - and ultimately in terms of colour, space, surface, rhythms (of colour and lines), light, and act of painting itself. However, these isolated inquiries, removed from the »whole«, dissecting it, so to speak, are by no means equivalent to mutilation. The individual aspects acquire not only a new quality; rather, the rejection of linking bonds and representation lends these works an unusual openness - which, admittedly, it is often difficult to live with. It is an openness that, unlike randomness, expects openness in return, a similar capacity for unabashed »dissection«. For although they no longer stand for anything specific, these works expose this particular social deficiency in an even clearer, more revealing manner than ever before.
The era that followed the end of the Second World War takes its name from the art of Jackson Pollock and Wols - Abstract Expressionism in the United States, Tachisme or Art Informel in Europe. Both are parallel developments, although the more decisive impulses came from Abstract Expressionism in later years - a novelty in North American art, which had previously tended to orient itself receptively towards Europe.
Pollock’s own generation owes its initial stimuli to the influence of European art, and in particular to that of the Surrealists who emigrated to the US during the war. Peggy Guggenheim opened her Art of This Century gallery in 1942, thereby establishing a link between European and North American art. In that same year André Breton and Marcel Duchamp organized an international exhibition of Surrealist art under the titel »Artists in Exile«. Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where Josef Albers began teaching in 1933, became the centre of the American avant-garde. Practically the same influences (that of the Surrealists to a lesser degree than the non-geometric abstract art of artists such as Klee and Kandinsky), were at work in Europe, although they produced different results.
The French term »l’art informel« expresses a »significance of non-form« that is comparable to American art. The first exhibition of Art Informel by Wols took place at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in Paris in 1947. Hartung presented his first solo exhibition that same year. In 1951 Mathieu organized a joint presentation of American and European painting, which he had meanwhile given the name »lyrical abstraction«.
Apart from Action Painting, Abstract Expressionism also encompasses Color Field Painting or Chromatic Abstraction, whose most noteworthy practitioners were Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.
By 1950 Mark Rothko had developed the method of contrasting solid, flat backgrounds with »soft«, light colour volumes that would become a constant in his work. Rothko »dematerializes« colour. It seems suspended - unlimited, transparent and freed from the background - in space. Self-relinquishment is both the driving force and the product of the act of painting for Rothko, as it is for Pollock as well. The influences of eastern Asian art and religion are not without importance in this context and they are particularly evident in the work of Tobey and in Mathieu’s calligraphy.
The variations of Abstract Expressionism mentioned above culminate in the art of Ad Reinhardt. He takes them up collectively and extinguishes them in his Black Paintings. As he stated himself in 1961, the square paintings (the »Ultimate Paintings«) have no specific composition, no form, no direction; they contain all of the features inherent in painting in suspended form and are thus painting »in nuce« - art as art.
A corresponding elevation of the aspect of colour to an absolute is found in Europe in the work of Yves Klein, who practises it with unparalleled logical consistency. Not only does Klein confine himself thematically to the three primary colours blue, yellow (as gold) and red, but each of these colours becomes a painting in its own right. Yet it is not this monochrome character alone that makes colour autonomous in a completely new way. It becomes a body, an independent organism (which even spreads over the slightly rounded edges of paintings). Colour is no longer merely applied to the canvas. The pigment patented by Klein lends it an additional tactile quality, thus enhancing its character as an object in and of itself. Released in this way from all relationships and dependencies, colour becomes »essential«. Absolutely free, it testifies to a spirituality that is unique to painting.
Recognizable as a parallel development to monochrome painting is a focus upon incorporating everyday objects into the process of abstraction in the representation of reality. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Robert Rauschenberg juxtaposed elements of Abstract Expressionist painting with real found objects in his »Combine Paintings«. His objective was not a Dadaist one, however. Rauschenberg’s collages and assemblages are the products of motivations other than those of aesthetic parody or social revolt. The fragments of reality integrated into his painting represent above all a newly acquired artistic vocabulary. The work of art as a unique object is reflected against the background of a reality that is accustomed to incorporate objects - second-hand, in most cases, taken from the media - into itself as standardized mass merchandise.
This step made Rauschenberg a precursor of Pop Art, a movement which emerged in England and the United States at the same time - around 1960 - and rapidly attracted broad public attention. Artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein drew their new vocabulary largely from the world of the media and the consumer goods industry. The unoriginal nature of such objects, their character as pre-fabricated, reproduced items tailored to the requirements of anonymous mass consumption - all of these features were lucidly appropriated by artists, who reproduced, multiplied and banalized them further through the application of appropriate techniques, such as silkscreen printing. Thus, in estranging the original motifs, they exposed habits of perception of art, in particular, in the modern world of material goods.
In France, the group known as the New Realists, with Yves Klein, Arman, Spoerri, Tinguely and others, was founded by the critic Pierre Restany in 1960. Christo joined the movement somewhat later. The name of the group itself suggests affinities with Rauschenberg and Pop Art. However, the French artists relied less on commercial advertising and the media industry in fashioning their vocabulary, concentrating instead on the entire spectrum of banal, trivial available in everyday life.
The first co-operative movement involving European and American artists also emerged in 1960 - Fluxux and Happening, whose prime movers included Filliou, Vostell, Beuys, Kaprow, Brecht, and Paik, among others. Fluxus and Happening were even more open to the realities of life than Pop Art and New Realism. Expressly rejecting the rigid, objectified world of consumer goods, they sought to revive the true, authentic principle of realitiy distorted by it. Spontaneity, dynamism, change, coincidence and the reversal of logical sentences were the driving forces in this movement. Joseph Beuys is a key figure in post-1960 art. His art is founded upon the perceived fundamental categories of life, those that both generate and contain it - which is why Beuys concluded conversely that everyone is an artist. Against this background, he introduced new materials into art. Organic and inorganic substances (such as felt or rubber) polarize and metaphorically link the powers of the senses and the mind that underlie the process of creation in both nature and art. Intuition and reason - brought into balance with one another - are the pillars of a life and a course of development that is also balanced in a social sense.
Sculpture attracted more attention than any other artform during the latter half of the 1960s. For the first time the designation for an entire style originated in the context of sculpture - that of Minimal Art, another American coinage. Andre, Judd, Flavin and - post-minimalistically - Serra distilled the complexity of the figural sculpture to derive the only truly essential aspects of sculpture: material, body, mass, space, surrounding space.
Still - or once again (following his Surrealist interlude) working with the human figure, Alberto Giacometti had long since deliberately isolated all of these individual aspects during the 1940s and 1950s, although he explored them within a single context: material - a surface exposed to space; the body - consumed by space; surrounding space - consuming distance between bodies. Although figurative, Giacometti’s sculpture is no longer mimetic representation. On the contrary, Giacometti saw himself condemned to failure in the face of the real world and the unbridgeable gap between reality and the artist.
Minimal Art’s technique of reduction to primary formal structures in favour of an autonomous definition of form and Conceptual Art’s reduction in favour of the autonomous conceptual definition finds a remarkably similar yet slightly divergent parallel in European (Italian) Arte Povera. Extremely simple materials actually quite foreign to the production of art form the basic vocabulary of such artists as Mario Merz, for example. Clay or glass - aesthetically uncontaminated materials - are incorporated into the works along with the particular meaning attached to them in everyday life. This suggests a comparison with the materials used by Beuys, including fat, felt, and beeswax.
The photograph, the illusionist image par excellence, provides the point of departure for the painting of Gerhard Richter, among others. In contrast to the photo-realists, he does not employ it for the purpose of investigating problems of visual perception but instead as a preliminary phase of liberation from the object, as a medium that creates distance between the artist and reality. In a sense, Richter’s painting virtually summarizes the entire historical process leading to the aesthetic abandonment of representation. In much the same way Palermo, as the above comparison with Mondrian suggests, parabolically summarizes this historically-derived rejection and the comprehensive pictorial structure.
The late 1970s and the 1980s witnessed the unexpected renaissance of representational painting. Isolated individual aspects and others based upon a reflection of arts as a whole have been of no concern to artists like A. R. Penck and Georg Baselitz since the 1960s. The power of visual images derives from the unmediated experience of reality, which also encompasses historical reality and myth. Anselm Kiefer was the first to themasize this, thereby posing the question of the anthropological content of painting.
The sculpture of the past two decades is also much more strongly oriented towards objective representation. In a revival of principles of Pop Art, Rosemarie Trockel, Katharina Fritsch, and Jeff Koons call our attention to symbols and norms typical of our society, signs and standards which govern general patterns of behaviour, or to certain fetishes of consumer society, whose aura is often strangely mistaken for the aura of the work of art.[ GI ]
»Malerei und Plastik des 20. Jahrhunderts«, by Karin von Maur and Gudrun Inboden, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1982
»Die Staatsgalerie Stuttgart«, by Peter Beye and Gunther Thiem, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1991 (German/English)
»Picasso. Klee. Giacometti. Die Sammlung Steegmann«, by Ina Conzen, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1998
»Modern Art 1900-1945«, by Karin von Maur (paintings) und August Bernhard Rave (sculptures), volume 4 of a set of museum guides, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1999
»Picasso und die Moderne. Meisterwerke der Staatsgalerie Stuttgart und der Sammlung Steegmann«, by Karin von Maur, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart 1999
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Mittwochs mit Muße
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