Throughout his career, Georg Baselitz has combined a direct and provocative approach to making art with an openness to art historical lineages, pulling together a range of art historical signifiers from the history of both modernism and postmodernism, and unifying a range of expressive techniques in the depiction of the body and the experience of paint on canvas. Continually revisiting his iconic inverted figure, the artist’s work has repeatedly explored reinvention and renewal, and takes on that same thematic in his new exhibition at Gagosian Gallery.
In this new series, of works, for the first time, Baselitz introduces the idea of collage, by gluing pairs of nylon stockings onto canvases and painting over and around their form in white, black, or gold, replicating the inverted legs of his signature form in a three-dimensional material bound still to a flat surface. In some paintings, these stocking-figures remain distinct from their backgrounds, while in others, printed impressions replace the hosiery itself, their stretched forms snaking from multihued “skirts” of expressive splatters, like plants from undergrowth. The appearance of the stockings, literally preserved in paintings such as Start ins Unbekannte (Off into the Unknown) (2020) and Freier Flug (Free Flight) (2020) serves to underscore the fleeting and enduring qualities that coexist there, drawing together an unexpected network of connections among images from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Elsewhere, his pieces explore a new sense of color, gentle pastels and washes that differ greatly from the stark, chunky brushstrokes of earlier work in this form. Turning his figures into slender, ghostlike strokes across the canvas, his pieces here exude a gentleness not previously seen in the artist’s work, an exploration of the body as a sort of temporal movement, fading in and out of view in relation to the soft glow of its backgrounds.
Springtime attests to Baselitz’s seemingly infinite capacity for artistic renewal, innovation, and tongue-in-cheek irreverence, all while continuing to harness the resilience of his distinctive methods and motifs.
The show closes June 12th.
– D. Creahan
Georg Baselitz: Springtime [Exhibition Site]