Sophie von Hellermann
Alison M. Gingeras
The exhibition shows how today's realistic painting presents itself: provocative, critical, ironic, and emotive. The exhibition opens with the erotically charged nudes Francis Picabia painted after pictures in magazines in the 1940s and presents 17 international artists who, working in his wake, have ventured to explore the 'figurative' from a mostly conceptual, media-filtered point of view.
"Dear Painter, Paint Me ..." shows how today's realistic painting presents itself: provocative, critical, ironic, and emotive. Since the early 20th century, the advocates of an abstract, conceptual modernity have contested the validity of realistic modes of representation as politically and aesthetically reactionary. Yet, there have always been artists defying this maxim. The exhibition opens with the erotically charged nudes Francis Picabia painted after pictures in magazines in the 1940s. "Dear Painter, Paint Me ..." presents 17 international artists who, working in his wake, have ventured to explore the "figurative" from a mostly conceptual, media-filtered point of view. The loose genealogy of post-war realistic painting spans from Bernard Buffet, Alex Katz, Sigmar Polke, and Martin Kippenberger to the present New York scene and artists like John Currin, Elizabeth Peyton, and Kurt Kauper, as well as works by such artists as Luc Tuymans and Neo Rauch. The exhibition has been organized in collaboration between the SCHIRN KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT, the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and the Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna.
The exhibition "Dear Painter, Paint Me ..." borrows its title from Martin Kippenberger's polemic 1981 series for which the artist commissioned a professional poster painter for one year to translate photographs selected by him into large-format pictures. This subtle play with the role of the painter illustrates how ambiguous, deceptive, and pliable pictures have become in today's mass media world. Kippenberger's skeptical radical view of the concept of authenticity in realistic painting outlines an attitude which the artists of this exhibition share.
Highlighting 18 artistic positions from 1940 until today, "Dear Painter, Paint Me ..." fathoms the role and range of figurative painting. The exhibition begins with the heydays of doubting realistic modes of representation, the early years of European fascism. Intense correspondences between the members of the Frankfurt School driven into exile in the mid-thirties initiated a debate which established an opposition between the possibilities of a critical realism and the project of modernity. It was in those days that Francis Picabia, undoubtedly a protagonist of the avant-garde, began to paint colorful realistic pictures with a kitschy tenor, using erotic magazines such as "Mon Paris" and "Paris Sex Appeal" as his source. Picabia's bent for an apparently anti-modernist figurative art of portrayal in the academic style was considered an affront.
With these pictures as a starting-point, the exhibition continues with a loose sequence of four other historical positions, each of which marks a radical attitude of the post-war era. All of them go to prove that a leaning towards figurative painting does not necessarily imply a retreat to traditional forms of realistic depiction.
The second part of the presentation following Picabia's "Nudes" (1940-3) spans from a group of austere nudes, portraits, and self-portraits by Bernard Buffet (1949-65) which, aimed against the academism of the Ecole de Paris, center on "academic" subjects, and four crucial pictures by Sigmar Polke (from the early 60s) for "the capitalist realism" that parody the alienation effect of the consumer culture to a selection of large-format group portraits by Alex Katz (from the 70s), pictures revealing the filter of the distanced view of sociological cinema, and a presentation of works by Martin Kippenberger (from the 80s) that illustrate the artist's refusal to see himself categorized as belonging to a specific artistic or political group.
These historical positions lead to thirteen other artists' works from the past decade's scene. Their views are characterized by a digestion of the historical positions' formal and conceptual strategies. All of them radically abandon the traditional art of portrayal by making pictures of the human subject the starting-point of their approach. The artists almost never depart from the real subject as their model but rather rely on photographs, films, TV pictures, the press, and the canon of art history or base their constructions on fictitious figures of the prevailing visual and social codes. The artists assembled in the show are far from believing in the often proclaimed impending death of figurative painting but consider the figurative as a source of freedom in view of the dogmas of history. "Dear Painter, Paint Me ..." demonstrates that figurative painting is not only full of vitality but may also convey conceptual contents and be a source of visual pleasure at the same time.
LIST OF PRESENTED ARTISTS: Kai Althoff, Carole Benzaken, Glenn Brown, Bernhard Buffet, Brian Calvin, John Currin, Peter Doig, Sophie von Hellermann, Alex Katz, Kurt Kauper, Martin Kippenberger, Enoc Perez, Bruno Perrament, Elizabeth Peyton, Francis Picabia, Sigmar Polke, Neo Rauch, Luc Tuymans.
CURATORS: Alison M. Gingeras, Sabine Folie, Blazenka Perica.
CATALOGUE: "Dear Painter, Paint Me ...". Edited by Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main. With essays by Alison M. Gingeras, Sabine Folie, Blazenka Perica, Michael Glasmeier. Contributions on the artists by Carole BoulbÃ¨s, Alexander Roob, Rainer Speck, Massimiliano Gioni, Parisa Kind, Alison M. Gingeras, Sabine Folie, Gabriele Mackert, Jemima Montagu, Blazenka Perica, and Martina Weinhart. English, German, and French editions, 200 pages, ca. 100 color illustrations, ISBN 2-84426-138-8 (English), ISBN 3-85247-037-4 (German), ISBN 2-84426-124-8 (French), 20 euro.
SCHIRN KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT, RÃ¶merberg, D-60311 Frankfurt.
NEW OPENING HOURS: Tue, Fri-Sun 10 am-7 pm, Wed and Thur 10 am-10 pm
ADMISSION: 6 euro, reduced 4 euro
GUIDED TOURS: Wed 7.00 pm, Sat and Sun 5.00 pm.
ADDITIONAL SUPPORT BY: Verein der Freunde der Schirn Kunsthalle e. V.
PRESS OFFICE: Dorothea Apovnik, Simone Czapka, SCHIRN KUNSTHALLE FRANKFURT, RÃ¶merberg, D-60311 Frankfurt