By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
In this order?
In this order, yeah. He likes it. The museum that it comes from tends to do it much more vertically and he didn’t like it, so he asked us to do it this way. It’s a great piece called The Fifties. It’s a piece he worked on during the ’60s. It kind of goes then with this Potato House, which is a kind of riff, if you will, on every German [having] the little garden cottages, but it’s attached with these potatoes, which of course was the staple during the war. And then this other one, LBJ and Mao as the potato heads, which may be one of my favorite paintings in the show [Kartoffelköppe, Mao & LBJ (Potatoheads, Mao & LBJ) (1965)]. Mao was a big topic of this time, of course. This is a work by Thomas Bayrle [Mao (1966)], which every 30 minutes goes on for about a minute and a half, and it flips and it becomes a red star. There was a sense of humor. There was sense of experimentation. There was a sense of fun, pushing the envelope, which I think you really feel in the ’60s.
The next room we’re going to go into, which is also the ’60s, this is the room where artists are coming to terms with Germany’s past. It happened in great part because of the Auschwitz Trials. If you’ve seen The Reader, the trial that takes place in that film was modeled on the Auschwitz Trials, a series of trials that went on between 1963 and 1965. Twenty-two guards, ordinary people who went back to ordinary lives but who during the war had been guards in the camps, were put on trial. It’s hard for us to imagine that it took 20 years for Germans to address the war, but we just have to remember that after the war — with the humiliation, with the defeat — nobody wanted to talk about it. These trials went on over two years; they were reported every day in the newspapers, people’s names were there, hundreds of people witnessed them, hundreds of people testified. It was only then that it became part of people’s awareness.
So imagine if you had been born in the ’40s and you’re reading about these trials and you’re 22, 23. What’s the first thing you’re going to do? You’re going to go home and say to you parents, “And where were you?” So what it provoked among that generation was this sense of outrage at the parent generation for having followed Hitler, having lost the war, having led to Germany’s humiliation and all of that. What it did then is it fueled the student movement, which you have in ’68 and then it took a kind of twisted turn in Germany toward the terrorists, theBaader-Meinhof gang. From a historical point of view, the ’60s really bleed right into the ’70s, so it’s kind of one big section in the exhibition. You have to understand a little bit about the history, but it’s quite fascinating.
It’s only in the ’60s then that artists now start to acknowledge the anger toward the earlier generation. Of course for many of them it’s not the Holocaust they’re imaging or reflecting, it’s German military history.
Right, which represents ...
Which is this. Exactly. [Wolf Vostell’s Hommage á Lidice (Homage to Lidice) (1958) and Richter’s Onkel Rudi (Uncle Rudi) (1965)] Both of these were shown in an exhibition in 1967 in Berlin called “Hommage á Lidice,” because word had finally then spread about the Nazi massacre, the annihilation of the Czech village of Lidice. A gallerist in Berlin, René Block, put on this exhibition called “Hommage á Lidice” and invited artists to either create new work or send in existing work, so both of these pieces were shown in that original ’67 exhibition. Vostell leaves little to the imagination. The Richter is a very famous picture, but you read it in a different way in this context, and it’s fascinating that both of these [works] are still to this day owned by the memorial in Lidice.
If you look around this room, just at a glance there are only three artists who did not come from the East, [Markus] Lüpertz, [Anselm] Keifer and [Bernhard] Heisig. So again, here’s where that preconception just falls by the wayside. Richter came from the East. [Georg] Baselitz came from the East. Penck came from the East. [Eugen] Schönebeck, who was a very close friend of Baselitz, they both left the East, went to West Berlin and they did a show and published a manifesto called The Pandemonium Manifesto in which they argued for return to expressionism. They were trying to connect back to that earlier German painting, and in a way that fueled the nomenclature, if you will, of Neo-Expressionism. This is actually the original manifesto [Georg Baselitz, Eugen Schönebeck, Pandämonium I Manifest – 1. Version (Pandemonium I Manifesto – 1st Version) (1961-2)].
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