Exhibition at Haus der Kunst presents more than 200 paintings and drawings by Markus Lüpertz

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Exhibition at Haus der Kunst presents more than 200 paintings and drawings by Markus Lüpertz
Markus Lüpertz, Unser täglich Brot II, 1972. Leimfarbe auf Leinwand, 250 x 350 cm. Sammlung Kleihues, Berlin © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019.

MUNICH.- Markus Lüpertz (*1941) is one of the most highly acclaimed artists working in Germany today. His paintings have played a decisive role in the international art scene since the 1960s. The exhibition Markus Lüpertz. Über die Kunst zum Bild [Toward the Image through Art] sheds light for the first time on the meaning of the serial character of Lüpertz’s art. The more than 200 paintings and drawings, many of them from international collections, reveal not only how deeply interconnected his oeuvre is, but just how much it is informed by a cinematic manner of looking at the world. The result is a fresh look at Lüpertz’s artistic oeuvre, which also demonstrates how much his work is devoted to revitalizing the age-old medium of painting.

Initially Lüpertz admired not just Westerns of all kinds, but particularly those made by John Ford. He also enjoyed watching auteur films taking distinct pleasure from those directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais. All of them largely dispensed with storytelling, intent instead on capturing the abstract quality of their character’s inner states, private longings and poetic visions. By the end of the 1960s their film poems would help Lüpertz break through to a radically new syntax of painting, whose possibilities the artist has continued to build upon right to the present day. From the beginning Lüpertz made series’ of images, a principle not only at the fundament of his oeuvre but one that according to the artist had its origin in film. The show, which is curated by the American art historian Pamela Kort, is the first to bring the significance of Lüpertz’s serial manner of working into focus.

Two artistic phases are at the core of the exhibition: the time period between 1963 and 1980 and the one extending from 2000 almost until to today. The show begins by zooming in on Lüpertz’s series of Donald Duck (1963) and Dithyramb (c. 1964–1965) drawings and paintings. Many of their motifs were inspired by the 20th-Century-Fox logo. These partly abstract works preclude any rapid identification of that trademark. While his Diamant canvases—which will also be on view—may not have been inspired by cinematic motifs, they suggest a zone beyond the confines of known time and space that we so often encounter in auteur films. Between 1972 and 1974 Lüpertz risked a lot with the paintings that soon gained him international respect: the so-called “German Motifs.” The steel helmets, shovels or officers’ caps that populate these works represent a new stage in Lüpertz’s development of a unique pictorial language. Though these images seem to recall the darkest moments of German history, their meaning remains open-ended.

The work that Lüpertz created between 2000 and 2016 is not only serial, but also gives themes and motifs emergent in his paintings since the 1970s, a completely new turn. The unusual sculptural quality of many of the figures in these paintings seem to have taken as one of their points of departure Alain Resnais’ “sculptural film” Last Year at Marienbad (1961), which the artist admired ever since it came to Berlin movie theaters in 1962.

Though not a retrospective, the exhibition attempts to keep pace with Lüpertz’s decidedly non-dogmatic painting, which transcend medium-specific boundaries in the interest of attaining images with the same kind of staying power as those we encounter in the cinema.

The German/English catalog with around 500 pages and more than 250 color illustrations is published by Walther König. With an essay by Pamela Kort and texts by Danièle Cohn, Éric Darragon, Rudi Fuchs, Nicholas Serota, Richard Shiff, Philippe Vergne, Pierre Wat, and Armin Zweite.

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