this issue contains
>> "El Regreso de los Gigantes" in Buenos Aires
>> Robert and Sonia Delaunay at the Centre Pompidou
>> Haiku master of the American psyche
   >> James Rosenquist: A Retrospective
   >> Interview with James Rosenquist

>> archive


exhibition view

With their "subjective" mythologies, A.R.Penck and Georg Baselitz, who had both received their art education in the GDR, reacted to the smooth consumerist world of the economic wonderland West Germany. Already in the early sixties, a manner of painting arose with a pictorial language that played with signs, placing itself in opposition to the hegemony of abstract art. A radical departure from Conceptual and Minimal Art, however, which were seen as overly intellectualized, only occurred later, with the emergence of the Junge Wilde in the early eighties. With their figuration grounded in subjectivity and their fierce gestures, these artists opposed the habitual conventions of the art establishment. Thus, the exhibitions of the Cologne artists’ group Mühlheimer Freiheit, to which Walter Dahn, Peter Bömmels (interview in 1 here), and Jiri Georg Dokoupil belonged, undermined the public’s expectations: their works were piled up to the ceiling, tacked directly to the wall, or leaned up against it. The reassessment of values that Punk had long since brought to the music scene had finally captured art, as well.

In Berlin, like-minded personages were easily found. In an exhibition shown in 1980 in Berlin’s Haus am Waldsee, in which Rainer Fetting, Helmut Middendorf, Salome, and Bernd Zimmer took part, the term "Heftige Malerei" was coined for the first time. The artists’ cooperative gallery on Moritzplatz in Kreuzberg as well as Salomé’s Punk band Geile Tiere quickly achieved cult status and became fixed parts of the Berlin scene.

Dieter Krieg: Ohne Titel, 1982, Deutsche Bank Collection

The proponents of Heftige Malerei referred back to the classical Expressionism of Die Brücke and Oskar Kokoschka as well as the figurative oeuvre of their "teachers." This break with conventions would never have been conceivable without the influence of Baselitz, Höckelmann, Hödicke, Krieg, or Lüpertz. Common projects developed out of a close contact with the music scene. With its Punk and New Wave concerts, SO36, founded in Berlin in 1978, became a meeting place for the young Berlin art scene. In 1979, Martin Kippenberger took over the club’s management for one year. Along with musical performances, exhibitions were now put on as well, in which Elvira Bach, for instance, presented her Bathtub Paintings. Transforming her immediate environment into sign-like ciphers, the bathroom served Bach as an intimate point of departure for introspection. From these self-portrayals, she later developed her dominant women figures, presented in this exhibition.

As ironic and subversive as Heftige Malerei was: twenty years later, Il Ritorno dei Giganti documents a condition that makes us contemplative today: Along with Elvira Bach, Ina Barfuß counts among the few women artists who were admitted into the painter’s inner circle of "giants."

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