Kai Althoff • Carole Benzaken • Glenn Brown • Bernard Buffet • Brian Calvin • John Currin • Peter Doig • Alex Katz • Kurt Kauper • Martin Kippenberger • Bruno Perramant • Elizabeth Peyton • Francis Picabia • Sigmar Polke • Neo Rauch • Luc Tuymans • Sophie von Hellermann.
'Cher Peintre' / 'Dear Painter' is an international group exhibition that will attempt to trace a distinct strand of figurative painting practice in the post-war period.
The exhibition takes its title from a polemical Martin Kippenberger series entitled 'Lieber Maler, male mir' ('Dear painter, paint me'), 1981, in which the artist commissioned a professional cinema poster painter to execute the paintings for his first solo exhibition in Berlin.
Taking its cue from Kippenberger's radical attitude towards the notion of authenticity in figurative painting, 'Dear painter' begins with a set of questions that have haunted painting in the post-war period. Is figurative painting intrinsically traditional, politically reactionary, and anti avant-garde? Is painting the human figure a practice that necessarily embraces a return to humanistic themes such as the truthful representation of human experience and emotion? Can figurative painting be simultaneously provocative and sincere, critical and sentimental?
'Dear painter' demonstrates that contemporary approaches to figure painting need not be a return to the status quo ante – a regressive retreat into traditional forms of mimetic representation. The artists in this exhibition have adopted strategies of provocation, critical distance and irony to challenge not only the conventions of figuration but also the history of painting and the orthodoxy of Modernism.
Radically departing from traditional portraiture, the artists in this exhibition take the 'image' of the human subject as the starting point for their work – they almost never paint from life. Instead, their source material is drawn from photographs, cinema, television, printed media, the canon of art history, or fictive figures based on existing visual and social codes. 'Dear Painter' suggests that painting is a privileged space to consider images which have come to saturate contemporary society and to measure their impact on our sense of individual as well as collective identity.
Overshadowed by the dominance of mass media, painting is no longer the primary form of image-making in contemporary western culture. Figurative painting has lost its general legibility, and painterly style and technical skill have become devalued and outmoded. This shift in the cultural status of painting has opened the door for artists to play with a range of different pictorial styles. The artists in 'Dear Painter' mix realism and kitsch, academicism with the vernacular. Their painting oscillates between technical virtuosity and deliberately 'bad' painting. This playfulness is a direct challenge to the historical values and ideological agendas that underlie notions of style and technique.
Far from the death of figurative painting, the artists in 'Dear Painter' have embraced its loss of mainstream cultural currency as a source of freedom from the dogmas of history, taste, and authenticity. 'Dear Painter' reaffirms the validity of figurative painting, its ability to convey conceptual content, as well as be a source of visual pleasure.
'Dear Painter' is structured in the form of a loose genealogy that stems from five distinct historical positions, each defining a radical moment in the post-war decades:
A selection of Francis Picabia's radical 'nudes' from 1940-43 painted after photographs found in pornographic magazines.
A group of austere Bernard Buffet paintings from 1949-65 of 'academic' subjects (nudes, portraits, self-portraits) which defiantly reject the abstraction promoted by the École de Paris.
Four key examples of Sigmar Polke's 'Capitalist Realist' works from the early 1960s parody the alienating effects of consumer culture.
A selection of Alex Katz's large-scale group portraits from the 1970s filter expectation through the detached gaze of sociologically conscious cinema.
An iconic presentation of Martin Kippenberger's portrait paintings from the 1980s encapsulate his refusal to adhere to any single artistic or political position.
Following this historical foundation, 'Dear Painter' continues with a presentation of 12 artists who have emerged over the course of the last decade. Among this heterogeneous group of international artists can be found the internalisation of the various formal and conceptual positions suggested by the presence of the five historical figures which initiate 'Dear Painter'.
Exhibition – admission fee: 6,5 € ; reduced price 4,5 €
Adult 13 or 11 EUR / concessions 10 or 9 EUR (depending on the period)
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