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Vertical Format, Horizontally
Art at the ibc: Günther Förg

In 2001, Günther Förg was honored as "Artist of the Fiscal Year" with a large one-person exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. Along with paintings, drawings, and large-scale architectural photographs from the Deutsche Bank Collection, five new site-specific paintings were on show - painted windows that also form the leitmotif for his new monumental work for the ibc in Frankfurt. Brigitte Werneburg on Günter Förg's window paintings and his take on the globalized world.

Günther Förg, Ohne Titel, 2004
Deutsche Bank Collection

Auguste Perret championed the tradition of the vertical format, while Le Corbusier was for the revolution, the horizontal format. They fought over the window form as the architectonic expression of the proper attitude towards a modern world. For Auguste Perret, who along with Robert Mallet Stevens and Le Corbusier was one of the most influential architects of French modernism, the window stood for the "upright man." On the other hand, to Le Corbusier's mind, only the horizontal panoramic window paid tribute to the modern perspective, which he equated with the camera eye.

Günther Förg's work cannot be understood without examining his basic approach to a given spacial situation. Förg often extends the painting's colors to the surrounding architecture and walls to accentuate the arena in which he stages his paintings, often in sequence, as spacial objects hovering between painting and sculpture. Long before the idea of the site-specific artwork and the installation became the standard in Germany, Förg was interested in creating a situation that represented the work of art.

Günther Förg, Ohne Titel, 2004
Deutsche Bank Collection

Günther Förg, Villa Wittgenstein II (links) + III (rechts), 1987
Deutsche Bank Collection

At the Frankfurt headquarters of Deutsche Bank's Private & Business Clients, the following situation can now be observed: in the entrance hall to the ibc building, an exemplary specimen of modernist architecture, Günther Förg has hung two of his window paintings opposite one another. Both works are horizontal in format, cinema screens in the sense of Le Corbusier. Despite this, one of them stands for the conservative upright man - the traditional high, narrow window, illuminated in red and divided by a black cross, placed on the right side of the blue canvas. In contrast, the other painting is dominated by the horizontal. The sequence of three superimposed colored strips of green, black, and blue can be read as the perspective of a driver looking through a windshield at a landscape. Yet Günther Förg calls this perspective immediately into question, vertically subdividing the painting into two narrow, orange-colored stripes and presenting it as a vertical format in three parts.

Now, in the exhibition situation addressing the architecture and window motif, the argument between Auguste Perret and Le Corbusier seems both present and annulled. "Every painting is a window onto the world," as Förg explains in a conversation about his work for the ibc, referring to a view of art that has been a standard since the Renaissance. But what do paintings look like from the moving camera or car perspective, when the window suddenly begins to move in the modern era? And what does this moving window itself consist of?

Time has shown that the upright man - always so concerned about his posture - has been conquered. Our view of reality has taken on a horizontal format. Increasingly, we see the world - the whole, globalized world - with its earthquakes, wars, parties, and political summit meetings, through the media window, whether it be the television or computer screen. Windows to the world á la Microsoft. Yet the classical medium of the vertical format already bowed considerably earlier to the pressure of the horizontal format. In newspapers, the really important images have always been printed in double-page spreads, while the latest status symbol of the modern household is the flat screen, stretched out to a nearly absurd width.

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