Bavarian National Museum opens an exhibition of works by Johannes Brus, Kevin Clark and Kilian Saueressig

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Bavarian National Museum opens an exhibition of works by Johannes Brus, Kevin Clark and Kilian Saueressig
Installation view.

MUNICH.- Three artists – three approaches – one theme: the portrait. Over the centuries, this pictorial genre underwent countless changes and reinvented itself again and again.

The exhibition "Portraire" brings together three current examples of mixed forms of painting and photography. Presented are artists whose style, approach and life path could hardly be more different: Johannes Brus, Kevin Clarke and Kilian Saueressig. The greatest leap in development of the genre of portraiture was experienced with the invention of photography. From the beginning, the portrait was the camera's favorite subject. Nevertheless, contrary to fears at the time, the increasing spread of the new technology did not mean the end of painting. Rather, the competitive situation ensured that painting revolutionized itself and became the counterpoint of the hyperrealistic reproduction of the world. It moved further and further away from the natural representation. Later, photography also began to move away from the depiction of reality through processes of abstraction and fragmentation. But both media have repeatedly returned to figurative representation and so the portrait always retained its prominent significance. In addition, artists repeatedly invented the most interesting hybrid forms of painting and photography.

Dr. Frank Matthias Kammel, Director General of the Bavarian National Museum: "In our house, which houses magnificent portraits from the eras of older art, this interference of the present holds an extremely exciting inspiration and a refreshing request to our viewing habits."

Manfred Möller, art expert, publisher and curator of the exhibition, adds: "Despite all the possibilities for image processing, the medium of photography still claims to an objective representation of reality – often a sometimes dangerous fallacy. The three artists Johannes Brus, Kevin Clarke and Kilian Saueressig, however, according to the Latin word origin (protrahere), are concerned in their artistic work with discovering, revealing."

The Experimental: Johannes Brus

Johannes Brus (*1942), professor at the Braunschweig University of Fine Arts from 1986 to 2007, repeatedly questions genre boundaries and traditional conventions with his sculptures and photographic works. Already as a student at Düsseldorfer Akademie, where he was confronted in the sculpture class of Joseph Beuys with his extended concept of art, which questions the meaning of art as an activity, Brus experimented intensively with the medium of photography. Committed to analog photoIn his photo laboratory, which is more like a workshop, complex transformation processes take place. Artisanal, artistic and scientific practices merge here. Brus deliberately works with the random principle, allowing photochemical processes to interact, which repeatedly lead to surprising results. graphy to this day, he continues to open up new possibilities for finding images in this medium, even with painterly means. In a work process that may seem arbitrary to outsiders, Brus edits his photographic templates and achieves astonishing results through the interplay of chance and selective interventions in chemical processes. The interplay of photographic template, light and darkness, tools, chemistry and artist's hand deprives the images of their uniqueness and creates something new, foreign. The result is only partially calculable and always surprising. With his humorous approach, the artist not only addresses cultural memory, he also questions the functions of the image.

The Abstract: Kevin Clarke

Kevin Clarke (*1953) studied sculpture at Cooper Union in New York. During Documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977, the New Yorker met his future friend and mentor Josef Beuys and was his companion for many years. After his studies, Clarke turned to conceptual photography and has been intensively involved in portraiture for over 40 years. He came to the realization that even the most naturalistic portrait could not grasp what lies behind the appearance of the depicted. He wanted to make the thoughts, feelings and history of those portrayed visible and at the end of the 1980s found the solution in the natural sciences, more precisely in genetics. Since then, he has created his "DNA portraits", for example of artist friends such as Jeff Koons, John Cage or his mentor Josef Beuys. Kevin Clarke takes blood or saliva samples from the portrayed and sends them to a laboratory for DNA analysis. He transfers the unique lines, rhythmic curves or letter sequences of the respective DNA, which contains the entire genetic information of the depicted person, to his portraits. Clarke combines this DNA information with a metaphor that stands for the personality or a specific character trait of the model. In doing so, he refers to literary sources as well as to aspects of science. The viewer is deprived of the face of the subject. Its appearance remains highly abstract. In this way, the artist challenges the viewer to intellectual cooperation in order to recognize the essence, the uniqueness of the person portrayed.

The researcher: Kilian Saueressig

In the exhibition, Kilian Saueressig (*1969) shows above all impressive light wall sculptures that fascinate not only by their charisma, but also by their technical execution. In them, the artist deals with philosophical, political, scientific, religious and social issues that determine life in the 21st century and invites viewers to do the same. In his portraits, Saueressig plays with self-developed innovative processes for color and shaping that go far beyond the currently known approaches. The structured light sculptures are produced in the spirit of sustainability with materials that are free of environmentally harmful substances. The passionate inventor and trained mechanical engineer attaches particular importance to this. Saueressig's works are composed of numerous superimposed image planes, each of which is illuminated by LEDs. As soon as the internal light source is switched on and varied in color and brightness, the overlapping image motifs in the different levels create ever new appearances. The viewer can activate the LEDs himself by means of a remote control and thus becomes an integral part of the artwork. There are endless possibilities to put the person portrayed in the "right light".Thus, Saueressig's portraits are the reflection of the portrayed by the artist and by the viewer. They compress a person's life, freeze the moment and re-awaken it again and again. The image is thus as dynamic and diverse as the person portrayed himself.

An exhibition of Edition Minerva curated by Manfred Möller.

The exhibition is accompanied by Edition Minerva, which specialises in high-quality art publications, with a catalogue of the exhibition.

The Bavarian National Museum is one of the largest European museums dedicated to both the visual arts and cultural history. Therefore, the house describes itself not only as a "treasure house on the Eisbachwelle", but also as the German V&A. The core of the collections is the royal art collection of the Wittelsbach family.

The Bavarian National Museum was founded in 1855 by King Maximilian II of Bavaria with the aim of "snatching the most interesting and patriotic monuments and other remains of past times from oblivion".After five decades in Maximilianstraße, an enlarged new building was built in Prinzregentenstraße, which was opened in 1900 by Prince Regent Luitpold. The new building, which is one of the most important and original museum buildings of its time, was designed by Gabriel von Seidl to provide a platform for a wide variety of works of art and styles from several centuries. On around 13,000 square meters of exhibition space, all formative European style epochs are represented here. Since Dr. Frank Matthias Kammel took office as Director General of the Bavarian National Museum in the summer of 2018, the building has been undergoing a visible process of renewal. With the exhibition "Loyal Friends. Dogs and People" entered new territory in 2019, so to speak, with the venerable house showing valuable pieces from the collection in art and cultural history in interaction with elements of pop culture. Recently, the Bavarian National Museum has also been opening up to contemporary art.

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