Gallerie Thaddeus Ropac London is currently offering a museum-quality show of ground-breaking inverted paintings, drawings and sculptures by Georg Baselitz, tracing the artist’s shift to a freer, more expressionistic use of paint and of color, while still staging works of startling intensity and solemn power. The exhibition presents seminal works from each of the series Baseliz developed during the 1980s such as Orangenesser, Strandbilder and Trinker, as well as works on paper from the era evoking religious icons, drawings from the Strandbilder series, and untitled figure sketches. Standing alongside his paintings, the show’s deep array of archival works establish the evolution of his personal iconography across media.
Baselitz’s radically dissonant paintings aggressively fracture convention, attacking traditional ways of thought and vision with relentless pictorial power. Taking their place within the story of Germany’s divided past, the works expressed the dream of a condition of future memory that overtook the present, allowing Germans a way forward into the future. The essence of these creations is in the arrant pathways of the brush, the synthesis of shade and grain, and the scorching effect of color upon the eye. Paint rushes down the the canvas, or clumps into piles that strain out again into exquisite streams. Occasionally painting using his fingers rather than a brush, Baselitz constantly toys with freedom and coercion, creating silent paintings that, without inflicting mutilations, develops an extensive internal logic.
The language of painting creates a system that has no substitute, it is an imperative in itself. The artist lives his painting with a pronounced resonance, rarely seeking to implicate or include himself within the work. Baselitz cradles the disquiet of his own history, and that of his native culture as an objective space, aligning his figures with an iconographic accord that paradoxically stabilizes them. The human form stumbles on the edge of abstraction, its attitudes a spare reflection of geometric space. Baselitz proposes a tabula rasa for art, one that lauds matter over meaning. He endorses the classic method of using, in a productive way, his historical framings in turn reflecting shifts and alterations in language. Nature and man are entrenched, adopted in the right of their fullness, able to resist any inversion.
Baselitz’s work harmonizes abstraction with concepts of both construction and deconstruction, twisting its labor and framing mechanisms against each other to create both internal antagonisms and new forms of expression. The figure is disintegrated and reshaped under the pressure of a narrative effort that is unavoidably trenchant and tormenting, eliciting an emotional truth that is a state of spiritual enhancement. The cognitive method does not surrender the competence of spontaneity and undefined form that challenge the roots of a narrative mimesis that is genuinely highly developed. It is the grim, obscure side of an ineffable instinct which appeals for the smooth voice of a shifting global spirituality.
Taking account of the lack of a true implication of the forms taken from reality, the quivering cast of charactersin the artist’s work exists though a voice that is source of agitation, of a steady, constant force and a living disguise for the release of this particular, plastic phenomenology. Combative and memorable, his works present a freedom of representation that confront the viewer with all the intensity of vivid elucidations empowered by potent ferocity.
The show closes November 21st.
— D. Fenicia
Georg Baselitz: A focus on the 1980s [Exhibition Site]