Approaches to German Reality
“Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection”
at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
investigation of German identity, visions of modernity, the
ideologically charged clash of images between figuration and
abstraction: The exhibition “Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank
Collection” documents much more than just the vitality of the Saxon art
scene. The show at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig also
reflects a chapter of collecting history and explores various aspects
of recent German culture, politics, and history.
Sunday , February 17 | 11 a.m.
Thomas Scheibitz & Hans-Werner Schmidt
Sunday , March 3 | 11 a.m.
Cornelia Schleime & Friedhelm Hütte
Sunday , March 24 | 11 a.m.
Jörg Herold & n.n.
Sunday , April 7 | 11 a.m.
Via Lewandowsky & Frédéric Bußmann
||What do Georg Baselitz, Wolfgang Mattheuer, and Eberhard Havekost
have in common? Offhand, very little. Baselitz and Mattheuer are not
only worlds apart formally, but also ideologically. And Havekost
represents a kind of cool conceptual painting that is light years away
from the postwar generation. Yet all three have influenced contemporary
German art, albeit in different ways. Each of these painters stands for
a very specific view of German reality. And – like nearly all of the 32
artists featured in the current exhibition of the Deutsche Bank Collection – they were born in Saxony.
is not only the birthplace, production place, or home of the artists,
but a point of departure for completely different biographies and
careers that have made history in the East and West. In this
sense, Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection
at the Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig maps out a complex, very
subjective topography of one of the most exciting regions for
contemporary art in Europe. The drawings, prints, and paintings mirror
myriad movements and styles, encompassing the entire spectrum of
contemporary German art from the 1950s to beginning of the new
millennium. Most of the works shown were acquired in the period between
the Fall of the Berlin Wall and rise of the New Leipzig School in the
late 1990s, a time in which Leipzig established itself as an art
metropolis with a worldwide influence.
Shortly after German
reunification, Deutsche Bank curators starting making regular visits to
galleries and artist studios in Leipzig and Dresden. Many of the Saxon
artists whose work was acquired during this period were at the
beginning of their careers – for example, Neo Rauch, who worked at the time as an assistant under Arno Rink at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst
in Leipzig. The show documents an important part of the history of a
collection that has always promoted young artists and acquired their
works early on. Equally, it was thanks to the purchase of young East
German art that great mavericks of East German art could be
rediscovered. They include Carlfriedrich Claus and Hermann Glöckner, who picked up on the legacy of Modernism in completely different ways.
The spectrum of artistic positions of Saxony – Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection ranges from Claus and Glöckner, to Carsten and Olaf Nicolai, to Neo Rauch and Thomas Scheibitz. Many of the artists were born in Saxony or live and work there. Others, including Cornelia Schleime,
had to leave the GDR due to their critical attitude toward the country.
Others were born in Saxony but embarked on their careers in the
Rhineland or West Berlin in the 1960s. Among them are Gerhard Richter, Imi Knoebel, Blinky Palermo
and George Baselitz. The exhibition follows all of these different
threads, but consciously refrains from a chronological historical
presentation. Nor is there a separation between East and West, between
different schools and movements. Rather, the show is divided into six
sections that invite viewers to take an associative journey through
contemporary German art. The exhibition also reflects various aspects
of recent German culture, politics, and history.
“Werktätige” (Workers), who move through puzzling scenarios like
sleepwalkers, are in the “Heroes/Anti-heroes” section, where they
encounter monsters and heroic figures created by Baseliz and Eugen Schönebeck
in the early 1960s. While these artists react to the repressed Nazi
past and the stuffiness of the era of the so-called German economic
miracle, Wolfgang Mattheuer’s Ikarus erhebt sich (Icharus Rises), the last painting in his series Suite 89
begun in 1988, refers directly to the political events of the final
days of the GDR. “Hitting and fixating the nerve of the time, that
neuralgic point that triggers desire and pain,” is how Mattheuer
describes the goal of this artistic work.
The section entitled
“On Cold Ground” is devoted to Constructivism and geometric
abstraction. These formal themes are also ideologically charged, as
abstract art was debased by official East German doctrine as being
“cosmopolitan” and “imperialist.” The title of this section is taken
from Hermann Glöckner, who stuck unflinchingly to non-figurative art in
the tradition of the Russian avant-garde. Apart from Glöckner, Knoebel
and Palermo are on view in this section. They influenced the Leipzig
painter Kaeseberg, whose works are exemplary for the reception of the ideas of Kazimir Malevich and Joseph Beuys and his students in the young East German art scene.
Claus works as consistently and willfully as Glöckener on his “busy
universe of enigmatic ciphers,” as the art historian Sarah E. James
put it in the exhibition catalog. In “Codes,” Claus’ visual linguistic
exercises are juxtaposed with other artistic forms associated with
ciphers and calligraphy, language systems, writing systems, and systems
of explaining the world. They include A.R. Penck’s simplified primitive
sign systems and Via Lewandowsky’s diary-like series of wax crayon
drawings from 1987. Lewandowsky, who co-founded the Autoperforation
artists group in the mid-1980s and shook up the East German art scene
with extreme performances, used the deformed body as a political
cipher. It stands radically opposed to the optimistic view of people
propagated by Socialist Realism.
The works in Saxony – Works
from the Deutsche Bank Collection illustrate how often the different
artists engage with similar issues: with German identity, visions of
modernity, the ideologically charged conflict of images between East
and West, figuration and abstraction. Whether it’s the scathingly
ironic "Stasi Series” by Cornelia Schleime or the cool architectural studies by Eberhard Havekost – the question of
how art and artists approach (German) reality is repeatedly taken up.
The exhibition does not only show Saxony as a transformative place of
production and discourse for 1990s art. It also tries to sketch a
coordinate system for contemporary German art, giving visual form to
topics and questions that have lost nothing of their up to the present
Saxony — Works from the Deutsche Bank Collection
February 7 to April 21, 2013
Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig