Franz Ackermann, Haluk Akakçe, Darren Almond, André Butzer, Günther Förg, Ellen Gallagher, Mona Hatoum, Arturo Herrera, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Graham Little, Marepe, Beatriz Milhazes, Frank Nitsche, Albert Oehlen, Yves Oppenheim, Richard Phillips, Chloe Piene, Jorge Queiroz, Kara Walker, Christopher Wool
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin 2005
With a text by Kirsty Bell
‘I consider drawing as principally a means of expressing intimate feelings and describing states of mind, but a means deliberately simplified so as to give simplicity and spontaneity to the expression which should speak, without clumsiness, directly to the mind of the spectator.’
H. Matisse, ‘Notes of a Painter on his Drawing’, in Matisse on Art, Oxford: Phaidon, 1990, p. 81
Publisher: Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Text: Kirsty Bell
Publication date: 2005
Dimensions: 29.7 x 21 x 0.8 cm
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British artist Darren Almond (b. 1971) works in a variety of media including photography, film, installation, sculpture and painting. His diverse subjects deal with abstract ideas of time, space, history and memory and how these concepts relate and intersect. He examines the symbolic and emotional potential of objects, places and situations to produce works that have historical as well as personal resonance.
Almond’s work often begins with travel to remote locations that are motivated by specific political, cultural or geographical investigations. In the ‘Fullmoon’ photographs, a series that the artist begun in 1998, he photographed diverse landscapes in every continent of the world under moonlight, using long exposures, to create images that seem to uncannily replace night with day. Almond’s films deal with personal and political subjects. In Bearing, for example, he follows the daily trek of a sulphur miner in Indonesia, while in In the Between, he films the controversial high-altitude train line built from China to Tibet. In his sculptural work, Almond often materialises notions of time as both a real and imagined construction. His large-scale, wall-mounted flip clocks, for example, emphasise the passing of time with their amplified sound as well as the impossibility of its mechanical quantification.
‘In practice, the allure of Almond’s artwork transcends the overt splendour of the views. It transpires in the artist’s underlying method, which is aesthetically fuelled by the exploration of time. How might an artist, in this day and age, depict temporality? What are the methods and means for visually representing the notion and experience of time? The answer resides in Almond’s distinct and complementary practices, which involve time in various guises: retransmitted, distorted, delayed, real, subjective or frozen.’
V. Souben in Darren Almond: ...between here and the surface of the moon, FRAC Auvergne, 2011
Artist page on maxhetzler.com
Fusing European Expressionism with American popular culture, André Butzer (b. 1973, Stuttgart) has painted his way through the artistic and political extremes of the 20th century – life, death, consumption and mass entertainment – into the 21st century. With wide ranging influences including Paul Cézanne, Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse, as well as Walt Disney and Henry Ford, Butzer has developed a unique and elaborate fictitious universe.
Many iconic characters have come to populate Butzer’s ‘Science Fiction-Expressionism’ with their recognisable large comic-book eyes, inflated heads or oversized hands. First appearing in 1999, these bright figures and shapes continue to lure the viewer in subsequent bodies of work. Engaging with the fundamental dimensions of colour, light and painterly expression, Butzer’s practice has shifted through the seemingly utter blackness of his N-Paintings, to a return to vibrancy, following his move to California between 2018 to 2021. Painting en plein air year-round, these recent works vibrate with a bold, energetic force.
Over a career spanning five decades, Günther Förg (1952–2013) developed a distinctive and prolific body of work, including experiments in abstraction and monochrome painting, against the general trend of figurative painting predominant in Germany in the 1980s. Wall paintings, sculptures, large format photographs, portraits and architectural views, as well as drawings and graphics, executed in a range of mediums, bear witness to the innovative diversity of the artist’s approach. Universal concepts of form, mass, proportion, rhythm and structure constitute a common thread in his work. From the late 2000s, Förg’s painting took a brighter and more gestural turn, resulting from an intuitive approach to colour and composition.
‘Art, artists, architecture, landscapes, films and literature are all constant sources of inspiration for Günther Förg, and the notion that art is generally more likely to be derived from other art than from nature comes through in his various work cycles and series as well. His spontaneity of conception and dynamic gesture is contrasted with complex references and their associated meanings. Förg is concerned with self-reflecting experience and self-analysis in painting. By referring to the most diverse of artists from widely varying eras and styles of the 20th century, he brings out individual positions that were arguably of unparalleled relevance to artistic practice in subsequent decades, while at the same time he links periods and ideologies that were often mutually contradictory.’
B. Reiss, Günther Förg: Paintings, Walls, and Photographs in Günther Förg 1987–2011, exh. cat., Berlin: Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2012
‘It is certainly easy to regard Martin Kippenberger as one of the greatest performers and self-promoters among German artists of the 1980s and 1990s, but that will do him justice only in part. Yet even the attempt to describe Kippenberger’s cosmos in all its complexity will necessarily fail. Like no other, he embodies the image of the 'typical artist,’ unlike anyone does he live an inseparable symbiosis of life and art production – in all its intensity and with all its ramifications. His work, based on permanent introspection, does not shy away from failure, disruption and great risks, and still provides impulses and inspiration today.
All of his works are self-portraits in the broadest sense; they say something about him, his life situation, his environment – even those that do not actually depict him. His art is complex, varied, autobiographical and self-reflexive; it appropriates, quotes and deconstructs before it constructs something new that refers back to whatever came before. For Kippenberger, relinquishing his authorship, or handwriting, is already from an early age a logical consequence of his thinking and acting, since it indeed opens up a wide range of possibilities – above all the establishment of his own reference system – within the art production. The radicalism that characterizes this approach unfolds a spectrum of options and calls into question everything that has existed thus far – originality, authorship, value, and also “postmodern knowledge.” Kippenberger performs this critique intuitively and even ventures beyond it: the one great narrative is abandoned in favor of many options'.
S. Kleine, ‘Cosmos Kippenberger’, in Martin Kippenberger: BITTESCHÖN DANKESCHÖN, exh. cat., Bonn: Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 2019, p. 27
The thematic repertoire of Marepe’s (b. 1970) work questions his roots: traditions and culture of his native region of Bahia in Brazil, the notion of poverty, colonialism and globalism are the artist's main concerns. His work is characterised by a personal sensuality combined with a socio-cultural and political verve, symbolised by the use of readymade materials and everyday objects or activities from his home region.
‘Marepe’s work is full of clashes and crossovers - between the traditional and the popular, the local and the foreign, the national and the international, the South and the North, the Brazilian Northeast and Southeast, the personal and the political, the familial and the official, the poor and the rich, high-tech and low-tech, high and low culture. These clashes and crossovers find their echo in different characters as the ambulante, the retirante, the migrant, [...] and the artist himself, who moves from one place to another in the world with his works full of memories and meanings and many possible translations.’
A. Pedrosa, Memory and displacement in the work of Marepe in Marepe, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin, Galeria Luisa Strina, Sao Paolo and Holzwarth Publications, 2007
The ornamental and brightly coloured works of Brazilian artist Beatriz Milhazes (b. 1960) draw upon diverse references spanning traditional arabesques, Brazilian Baroque, Brazilian Modernism, and Henri Matisse's papiers découpés. Influenced by the tropical climate and vegetation of her home country as well as by the urban environment of cities like Rio de Janeiro, Milhazes combines traditional imagery and cultural clichés with geometric forms and structured compositions, creating dynamic and captivating works. Although painting has formed a major part of her œuvre since the start of her career, Milhazes constantly extends her work to include different media and techniques such as textiles, wrappers and collage, as well as intricate mobiles comprising mirroring balls, chains and flowers.
‘Despite the vividness of her colors and compositions, a relative slowness is characteristic of Milhazes' working method, and it is this measured rhythm which enables her to cover increasingly vast distances in time as in space. The Brazil that concerns her is not just that of the morning newspapers and the news on TV Globo. Her Brazil goes right back to the sixteenth century and even earlier. And her country interests her all the more for bearing the marks of multiple cross-cultural currents. For us non-Brazilians, from a distance, it is a mythical country, that of a successful racial diversity, one where economic expansion has not erased extreme social differences, but which is waging a struggle against extreme poverty. For the Brazilian artist, it is history made real.’
F. Paul, 'In China, you must know, the Emperor is a Chinaman, and all whom he has about him are Chinamen too’, in Beatriz Milhazes: Snow in the Tropics, exh. cat., Pinacoteca do Estate São Paulo, São Paulo, and travelling; Milan: Electa, 2011
Frank Nitsche (b. 1964) has developed a sophisticated visual language, overlapping layers of paint on top of each other, intersecting lines and creating specific forms. Geometric figures, lines and shapes are composed to abstract formations which could remind of construction plans, technical models, design, calligraphy or computer programs. To work on his abstract compositions, Frank Nitsche makes use of a large visual archive taken from media, pop and consumer culture which he arranges, selects and condenses into his own pictorial idiom; his ‘albums’ being published as artists books or exhibited next to the paintings.
‘Nitsche exclusively develops his typically distorted and intertwined planar formalisations during the painting process - without any computer assistance, but nevertheless intentionally including a general aesthetic of medialisation in the paintings. In his opinion “all aspects of social life are designed. I understand my work”, says Nitsche, “as the resume and essence of all design, so to say, the deformed design of the zeitgeist, the over-design and the distortion of the over-design”. In this respect the scintillatingly compact, evocatively synthetic character of the paintings also harbours social-critical reflections. [...] Nitsche applies a unique pictorial logic to the development of every one of his paintings. For him there is no seriality; not even the formats are standardised. He enters the painting process completely: positioning a form, reacting to it in subsequent steps, obliterating existing parts, overpainting, complementing, erasing further parts, overpainting again, and so on. He continues this until a structure exists with the desired tension, rigour and dynamics.’
J. Asthoff, Into the Green in Frank Nitsche: Green, Galerie Max Hetzler, 2006
One of the most respected painters today, Albert Oehlen (b. 1954) constantly questions the methods and means of painting to raise a sense of awareness of the medium, which he aims to reinvent and to reshape, always in opposition to traditional hierarchies. Albert Oehlen has been continually colliding various styles, orders or mediums since the 80’s, expanding the notion of painting to ‘what he wants to see’.
‘Albert Oehlen long ago constructed the possibility of his own painting. Yet at the beginning the road seemed not merely a narrow alley, it looked like a dead end. What then? Give up and turn back? Or take a hammer and drive a tunnel through the solid amorphous mass before him? Albert Oehlen was one of the very few to take up that hammer. And when he started he struck mighty blows. It was in materials, expression, history and genre – in everything his immediate predecessors had progressively demolished with their hammers – that Oehlen stated his determination not to give in. His possibility of painting had to be built from the foundations. No gratuitous transgressions, no irony or cynicism – even if it is true that some used these terms to disparage his efforts to be free of artistic propriety. Instead Oehlen went looking where nobody else did, plunging into the piles of detritus abandoned by the wayside of an era. Then a final task remained: that of interweaving painting as history with the position of the painter and with the society out of which both painting and painter emerge in order to reflect on it.’
A. Pontégnie, The history of abstraction seemed to be finished in Albert Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2011
The core element of Christopher Wool’s (b. 1955) work is the process of painting itself, which he explores since his early years by reducing form and colour, experimenting with different painting and more specifically on reproduction techniques: using silkscreen or pattern rollers, layering and erasing, covering certain motives with paint, then adding other layers on top. The range of techniques Wool has used over the years makes reference to processes and gestures that have marked contemporary art history. His complex work encourages the viewer to reflect on the physical qualities of paint, reproduction and to be aware of painting procedures and the essential elements of the medium: form, line and colour.
‘Christopher Wool’s paintings seem to capture visual urban experience, carved out of a moment for the duration of an artwork - an artwork that coverts the structures of experience into the structures of painting. Non-specific moments and impressions are lifted out of context and fixed into details of a painting that, unlike graffiti, conveys the speed and concentration of its origin only when it is contemplated over a measure of time in an art space. The dynamic of the picture’s conception becomes, very gradually, the dynamite of the thought it contains. Thought pictures.’
F. Meschede, ‘The Nothingness before nothing’ in Christopher Wool, Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2007
Franz Ackermann, Haluk Akakçe, Darren Almond, André Butzer, Günther Förg, Ellen Gallagher, Mona Hatoum, Arturo Herrera, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Graham Little, Marepe, Beatriz Milhazes, Frank Nitsche, Albert Oehlen, Yves Oppenheim, Richard Phillips, Chloe Piene, Jorge Queiroz, Kara Walker, Christopher Wool (catalogue)
Zimmerstraße 90/91, Berlin-Mitte
Exhibition page on maxhetzler.com