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To Paint Is To Love Again - The Deutsche Bank KunstHalle Celebrates Painting

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To Paint Is To Love Again
The Deutsche Bank KunstHalle Celebrates Painting


Three current women painters in dialogue with an icon of Berlin art history: The exhibition “To Paint Is To Love Again” in the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle juxtaposes paintings by Antje Majewski, Katrin Plavčak, and Giovanna Sarti with the late work of Jeanne Mammen. The show is part of the “Painting Forever!” project, for which four important Berlin institutions are collaborating for the first time The exhibition projects in the Berlinische Galerie, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the Nationalgalerie, and the KunstHalle are showing what the Berlin painting scene is occupied with today.


Jeanne Mammen’s “Photogenic Monarchs” look like two archaic idols. She constructed the two figures in the 1968 painting out of color surfaces and shiny silver candy wrappers. It is a rather trivial material to use to immortalize one of the most popular and controversial glamour couples of the late 1960s, the Shah of Persia and his wife Farah Diba. On the occasion of their visit to Berlin, the two monarchs were courted by the rainbow press as emissaries of an exotic empire, while at the same time students protested on the streets against the authoritarian ruler. In Mammen’s work, the monarchs mutate into bizarre figures reminiscent of praying mantises crossed with Max Ernst sculptures. As at the beginning of her career in the 1920s and 30s, the painter also chronicled Berlin with this work. Unlike back then, however, she refrained from making a direct political statement. But she made one thing clear: The reign of these rulers, now encased in candy wrappers, seems to be over.

Such ghostly figures, whimsical humor and nonfigurative elements are typical of Mammen’s late work, executed between the 1950s and the artist’s death in 1976. Different work groups from these years are on view in the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, material collages and semi-abstract compositions populated by cipher-like signs, marionettes, and masks. The paintings became ever brighter in the course of the years, layer upon layer was applied. In her final, “numinous” paintings, the fantastic figures pose in front of white impasto color. The exhibition enables viewers to re-experience the artist, who is often associated with her works from her years in Weimar. Mammen is still considered to be a chronicler of 1920s Berlin nightlife. But she cannot be reduced to this. The exhibition in the KunstHalle shows that her late work has a different, equally strong side.

Curator Eva Scharrer is interested in more than just rediscovering the artist, however. She is showing Mammen’s paintings together with current works by the Berlin-based artists Antje Majewski, Katrin Plavčak, and Giovanna Sarti. “In the juxtaposition of the four women painters, I’m less concerned with a discourse about the medium per se or the much-invoked purported death of painting, than with a lively dialogue in a medium whose potential has apparently not been exploited yet,” says Scharrer, who was one of the 14 “agents” on Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev’s documenta team. “Jeanne Mammen’s late work was barely acknowledged during her lifetime. I’m interested in what happens when you re-contextualize these works. How they react when they are contrasted with contemporary works, and how the invited artists, in turn, react to Mammen’s work.” The three painters deliberately entered into a dialogue with Mammen’s work and produced new works for the exhibition, which are shown alongside selected existing paintings.

Majewski, Plavčak, and Sarti – all of whom were born in 1970 – belong to a generation of conceptually oriented painters who repeatedly call their medium into question and exploit its possibilities to the full. Many of Majewski’s figurative paintings show enlarged objects. Whether they are trivial tools such as drill heads and bicycle keys, or vessels from an archeological museum, the objects in her paintings have an almost magical presence suggesting they have an unfathomable life of their own.

While Katrin Plavčak makes use of various formats and media, painting is at the center of her work. The spooky creatures in paintings such as Female Ghost (2012) and Unendliche Begegnung (Infinite Encounter, 2011) transport a surreal mood they share with Mammen’s later paintings. However, Giovanna Sarti’s common ground with the artist can be primarily found on a formal level. In Sarti’s abstract paintings, paint, metallic pigments, and glitter are overlaid to create compositions whose organic structures document the painting process and which correspond to Mammen’s shimmering color grounds.  

Scharrer called her exhibition at the KunstHalle To Paint Is To Love Again. She borrowed the poetic title from a book from 1961 by Henry Miller, who in addition to writing always painted. In the book, he describes how the world around him changed when he began to see it as a painter. “The most familiar things,” writes Miller, “objects which I had gazed at all my life, now became an unending source of wonder, and with the wonder, of course, affection.” This love of the medium of painting and the invitation to see things through different eyes also characterizes Scharrer’s show.

The exhibition in the KunstHalle is part of the Painting Forever! project initiated by the Berlin Senate with which four institutions show how mercurial, exciting, and varied the medium of painting, which has so often been written off, still is today. The Berlinische Galerie is devoting a solo exhibition conceived as an installation to Franz Ackermann, while the Neue Nationalgalerie is presenting four of the most important contemporary German artists – Martin Eder, Michael Kunze, Anselm Reyle, and Thomas Scheibitz – together for the first time. Keilrahmen, the contribution of ther KW Institute for Contemporary Art, brings together more than 70 works by contemporary painters who work or worked in Berlin. The cooperation between the four institutions is to be continued in the years to come. Painting Forever! is the highlight of the 2nd Berlin Art Week, a program of exhibitions and events, as well as the two fairs abc – art berlin contemporary and PREVIEW. Deutsche Bank is a partner of Art Week, an event promising to be the premiere autumn art event in Berlin.


Painting Forever!
To Paint Is to Love Again

Jeanne Mammen – Antje Majewski, Katrin Plavčak, Giovanna Sarti
Deutsche Bank KunstHalle
September 18 – November 10, 2013

BERLIN ART WEEK
September 17 – 22, 2013




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Feature
WE LOVE NR - Neo Rauch and the Deutsche Bank Collection / Collaboration: The Feminist Artists´ Group ff - Interview with Mathilde ter Heijne, Antje Majewski and Katrin Plavcak / The Question: Is Painting really forever? / To Be Just a Pair of Eyes - The other side of Jeanne Mammen / Friendly Monsters - Street Artist Fefe Talavera's Project for the Deutsche Bank Towers / Artists Make Tomorrow's Poland / The Artist and the Propaganda Machine: How Fernando Bryce Retells 20th-Century History / Three questions for Nicola Lees - An interview with the new curator of the Frieze Projects / Süden - The Villa Romana at the Deutsche Bank KunstHalle / Let’s talk: Angelika Stepken, Ingrid & Oswald Wiener on “Hot Feet”
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Wolves in Brisbane - Cai Guo-Qiang's "Head On" at the Gallery of Modern Art / A Place of Art Production and Exchange - Villa Romana at the Bundeskunsthalle / Views 2013 - Lukasz Jastrubczak Wins the Most Important Prize for Young Polish Art / Regarding the Other - Lorna Simpson at the Haus der Kunst / Women Artists in London - The Highlights of Frieze Week 2013 / Jubilee in Regent’s Park - 10th Year of Deutsche Bank’s Partnership with Frieze London / Stitching Instead of Spraying - New Art for Züri West / Britain's Got Talent - Deutsche Bank Award Winners Announced in London
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"Breathtaking in Part" - The Press on Frieze London and Frieze Masters / "A Great Start" The Press on the First Exhibition at the KunstHalle
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