Der Seerosenteich: Roman (German Edition)

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Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. Amazon Restaurants Food delivery from local restaurants. ComiXology Thousands of Digital Comics. East Dane Designer Men's Fashion. More disinterested but no less relevant theoretical positions were en- gaged by Crimp, Owens and others not mentioned here, to 24 Kuspit, "Acts ol Aggression": Kuspit's call for greater detail in dealing with the art has been sustained by art-historical analy- sis by Gohr and others in numerous exhibition catalogues and art journals, with the best reflections demonstrated in the monographs on Kiefer, Richter and Polke that have accom- panied recent retrospectives of their work in the United States, Germany and France.

Passionate advocacy of an art that is no longer regarded as "new" has of course abated, but the questions raised by the phenomenon of German figurative painting at the beginning of the decade have not been satisfactorily resolved. The art world has inexorably moved on. But the impact of the work and the scale of the debate still open themselves to discursive analysis, particularly as the high practitioners moved toward the hal- lowed category of "modern masters. Either the new German figurative art could be seen as a decadent, derivative and repetitive enterprise that ignored the fundamental lessons of modernism and bra- zenly indulged the conventions of a bourgeois art for its recog- nizable and marketable historical referents — or it was a logical extension of the modernist discourse in a context altered by the exhaustion of critical language.

If it were to prove true that the "new" painting demanded that entirely new and possibly fictive frames of reference be established to explain it, a new critical language, sensitive enough to the discursive possibilities of reading history in a postmodern context, but authoritative enough to satisfy the expectations generated by the rigorous modernist critique, would have to be developed. As both Crimp and Owens have pointed out, however, an effective postmodern art-critical dis- course could maintain its vitality only at the expense of an established canon upon which its authority as a critical lan- guage could be based.

At the heart of the paradox was the problem that Owens described as the basic incompatibility be- tween modern and postmodern notions: Far from cen- suring subjective meanings derived from a poststructuralist critique that demands that reading itself be acknowledged as part of the interpretive act, contemporary art-history has de- veloped into an industry that seems to thrive on it.

The ques- tion of the power of its polemical force is another matter. Postmodernist attitudes have unquestionably placed the notion of a dialectical determinism in jeopardy. Whether art history still needs to depend on the authority of such visions clearly remains to be seen. In the face of this paradox, however, the options suggested by the square-off between German figurative art and the criti- 2. This synthesis acknowledges the impli- cations not only of a devalorized modernism, but of a concur- rent reduction of the power and impact of the art-historical enterprise.

Specifically with regard to painting, it is predicated in equal parts on the systematic marketing of the art object in contemporary society, on a fundamental perception that the range of formalist art-making strategies is restricted and finite, and on a skeptical commitment to the act of painting as play, suggested by Richter's description of painting as "pure idiocy. High art, as it is brought to our attention with increasing insistence, is mediated by a market.

And markets, we are learning, facilitate the distribution of in- formation as well as of goods and services and the objects of material culture. The fact is that the phenomenal success of the new German painting was based on its market performance, the collective votes of confidence that were cast by exhibition organizers, gallerists, museum directors, collectors and the ever-increasing art-consuming general public.

Artists have always wanted 1 to make history and 2 to make money.

The contemporary appe- tite for art has upset the modernist axis that chose to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Traditionally, when new art emerged to challenge the status quo, it sought a critical justification that could make it either more or less appealing to collectors and dealers. When artists, dealers, curators or collectors spoke about quality, they also meant art history, which suggests that enduring quality re- quired a determinant historical frame of reference against which it could be measured.

Art was made to be seen and sold, but that was secondary. The subordinate function of the mar- ket was to distribute the object. In a contemporary context, however, the object information, historical worth and practical value are all more or less linked together on equal terms. This alliance depends on a controlled disequilibrium. The art con- tinues its attempt to be challenging and remain beyond the reach of conventional aesthetics but not far enough out to prevent it from being bought, sold, performed, analyzed or discussed ; the criticism seeks to locate it by expanding the frame of reference in a historically coherent direction which means both forward and backward because the multifaceted information function of art includes the ability to present his- torical reference to its audience in a contemporary context ; and the market places value relative to the degree to which the art and its criticism continue to authenticate the magnitude of the achievement.

Paradox and Paradigm z i This new world, which really is not so new, is a world where information is imparted by both the artist and by the reader; where prime formal strategies are recognized as finite; where the velocity and scope of the markets emphasize the value of the object as a transmitter of historical information rather than of historical significance; where the art object must adjust to a less exalted status without surrendering its subversive poten- tial; where the modernist historical code must give way to a less imperious standard without abandoning its mediative and interpretive function.

In a world such as this, an epistemologi- cal shift has already occurred. The special significance of the German figurative art of the last thirty years may therefore reside not in the range of formal invention it was able to articu- late, but in the obvious lack of such abilities. It is an art that has successfully operated in a postmodern situation, content to carry the potential for subversive and inventive activity with- out having to flaunt it as its primary reason for being. That the modernist enterprise, inextricably tied to the his- tory of the history of art, was based on a finite set of formal propositions has become more than a hypothesis — it is the very condition of the contemporary environment to which art- ists and critics have been forced to adjust.

Three decades ago, with prophetic clarity, George Kubler envisioned the post- modern situation with a profound insight about the limits of the modernist enterprise. Kubler pointed out that the tradi- tional position of art history, that of the discovery and sys- tematic chronological and stylistic categorization of works of art, will no longer be relevant once the archeological process of discovering and recording is more or less complete.

The historical study of art in systematic principles is about two thousand years old if we include Vitruvius and Pliny. This accumulated knowledge now far surpasses the ability of any individuals to encompass its detail. It is unlikely that many major artists remain to be discovered. Each generation of course continues to reevaluate those positions of the past which bear upon present concerns, but the process does not uncover towering new figures in the familiar categories so much as it reveals unfamiliar types of artistic effort, each with its own new biographical roster.

Similarly Radical innovations may perhaps not continue to appear with the frequency we have come to expect in the past century. It is possibly true that the potentialities of form and meaning in human society have all been sketched out at one time and place or another, in more or less complete projections Were this hypothesis to be verified, it would radically affect our concep- tion of the history of art.

Instead of occupying an expanding universe of forms, which is the contemporary artist's happy but premature assumption, we would be seen to inhabit a finite world of limited possibilities, still largely unexplored, yet open to adventure and discovery, like the polar wastes long before their human settlement. Instead of regarding the past as a microscopic annex to a future ot astronomical magnitudes, we would have to envisage. The histor ot things would then assume- an importance now assigned only to tin- strateg ot profitable inventions. Kubler's brilliance was to sec that a perception of the bound- aries of formal invention did not necessarily invalidate the en- terprise, but simply indicated a shift in strategic assumptions.

Rather than obsess itself with a strateg ot invention, he sug- gests that art has a history to mine, that the excavation of expressive potential performs the salubrious function of com- municating with the past. If the art object has become a commodity, and if the depreci- ation of radical innovation appears to have diminished the historical relevance of painting, the expansion ot the historical frame encourages sustenance of the engagement. German painting no longer displays the radical presence it commanded in 19Hz.

It has been moderated from all sides. The urgenev regarding its relationship to the avant-garde, though still unre- solved, is no longer a concern. The artists have been provoked into more complicated positions. A second and third genera- tion of figurative painters have emerged to challenge the con- ventions and attitudes of the original group, but hardly with the passion of a frontal attack.

The work of painters such as Norbert Tadeusz, Christa Naher and Michael Buthe, who missed the glare of the spotlight ten years ago, now offer other dimensions to the discourse. The rediscovery of the complex attitudes of Polke and Richter testify to the final irrelevance of historical categorization. The critical context for new German painting is then not only demystified, but the political and social atmosphere in which the art was made in the first place and provided its authenticity, recedes in significance as well.

The situation is now interesting because of its complexity and at times beguil- ing virtuosity within the restricted and artificial frame of the medium of painting. Within the context of the medium of history is established the history of the medium — against which finally the personal history is painted. The important thing is to paint long enough to have a history. Blasphemy on Our Side Fates of the Figure in Postwar German Painting Joseph Thompson While I was painting the sewing machine in my simply fur- nished apartment in Versailles, it dawned on me that the pic- ture had become something more than the image of a modest home appliance.

In the feminine lines of the sewing machine's body, in the shimmering knobs, thread guides and needle, I recognized Lilo again, with whom I had just broken off in a fight. A part of our troubles had made their way into the picture, which came to be known to —me and I promised then to tell no one — as The Offended Bride.

Appearing in 57, at the height of all-over, abstractionist painting, and before Pop Art had found its American, one-off, disposable imagery, Klapheck's works should be read neither as simple reactions to international abstract tendencies, nor as ironic statements about a materialistic world. Rather, his images are portraits and landscapes projected through careful renderings of beauti- ful machines to which Klapheck bestows monumental pres- ence. Klapheck's implements leap free from the canvas with the wholistic pictorial logic of medieval icons and the visual punch of modern advertisements.

The effect, finally, is that of the intensity and magical focus projected from a child's gaze, and, tellingly, when Klapheck speaks of his work, his explanations are interwoven with stories of his childhood and personal past. Andre Breton said of his work that, "Towards the machine Klapheck acts like a magician hiding none of his methods The Offended Bride cat. The im- age remains abstract and is representational only in the sense that a map or a mechanical drawing is representational; and rather than present a pictorial organization in which the whole painting surface is given 'as a single undifferentiated field of interest',' Klapheck's imagery unfolds in the sinister configura- tion of the needle bale, in the tipped-over spool of thread, in the modestly gesturing nude who appears in the shape of a brand-name medallion, and finally in the careful rearrange- ment of the power switch, which places the toggle slit in a much more anatomically suggestive position than it occupies in the actual sewing machine on which Klapheck modeled this one.

Dieter Hacker Painting is not justifiable in itself, and I find painting for the sake of painting totally boring. Helmut Middendorf Pictures must be made according to a recipe. The painting must be done without any engagement, just as one would break stones or paint facades. The making process is not an artistic act. Gerhard Richter The means of painting is color on canvas, Oswald.

Introduction Although drawn from an epoch of art-making as diverse in media and technique as any in the history of art, Refigured Painting: The German Image i 88 nevertheless settles into distinctly conventional bounds. Indeed, it is tempting to place the entire production under a giant negative sign, cataloging the work by everything that it is not — nonperformance art, non-immateriel and non-site-specific, the works can be hung on almost any large wall; nonindustrial, the mark of the hu- man hand is almost everywhere evident; and non-high-tech, the work is entirely lacking in state-of-the-art, high-technology production values.

The dominant conventionality of Refigured Painting is all the more remarkable in view of the Federal Republic of Ger- many's prominent role in the international avant-garde of the past three decades. Beyond Beuys, the entire idiom of performance-based and nonobject art was developed as early and has been taken as far in Germany as anywhere else. Zimmer — was engaged in a highly charged, socially motivated art that earned them their arrest and conviction for blasphemy and abuse of religion.

And in Berlin on November 10, 1 96 1 — one day after the arrest of the SPUR antagonists and three months after the construction of the Berlin Wall — Georg Baselitz and Eugen Schonebeck staged Panddmonium, a small exhibitory event in a decrepit Berlin-Wilmersdorf attic studio rented specially for the occasion. Schonebeck recalls that the single written response was by the critic Heinz Ohff, and the visitation "averaged about one or two people per day, which was surprisingly many, because we were not known, and the manifestoes only lasted a day or two around the city.

No truck with those who can't wrap art up in a smell. I have no kind word to say to the amiable. They have proceeded by art historical accretion, they have ruled neat lines under things, they have practised mystification with all the passion of a col- lector We have blasphemy on our side! They have escaped their sick- beds. Their simplifying methods have swept them on to the crest of the waves.


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The ice beneath the foggy maze is broken. They are all frozen stiff — those who believe in fertility, those who believe in it — those who deny their pens and those who revere them. Fiery furrows in the ice, flowerlike crystals, criss- cross icicles, starry sky torn open. Frozen nudes with encrusted skin — trail of spilt blood. The amiable are washed up, depos- ited as sediment 5 The Panddmonium exhibition employed an image vocabulary which was to be of central importance to German figurative painting of the next twenty-five years.

But it is the manifesta- tion itself of that imagery — its almost unnoticed realization in a space outside the international avant-garde and society at large — which most concerns us here. The abrupt, stubborn brushwork which centrifuges out from a seemingly random zone on the page recalls the dense, frag- 3 See Emmett Williams's firsthand account, "St.

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George and the Fluxus Dra- gon. We see very clearly in these early works the moment at which Schonebeck, together with Baselitz, assumed an une- quivocal, provocative position counter to the then dominant mode of abstraction. Schonebeck's troubling body-stumps arise to challenge all those amiable critics and artists who, as noted in the Panddmonium manifesto, "have proceeded by art historical accretion, have ruled neat lines under things, and have practised mystification with all the passion of a collec- tor.

Like scenes from Laut- reamont's Songs of Maldoror, the stunted, ruinous themes of Schonebeck proclaim an alternate and desperate Menschen- bild, an inhabited pictorial space which vaunts the little mutant horrors repressed in the Wirtschaftswundcr but alive outside of it. This was a vision very precisel and consciously alien to the mainstream of formalism, the figural bodies occupying a picto- rial territory in which the marking structure of Informel was literally denied, an outsider's space which Schonebeck also ar- ticulates in this statement about his relationship to Baselitz m the early 60s Our relationship at thai time consisted in shaking each other up to r.

We put ourselves mto extreme situations; we cultivated an extreme antibourgeois attitude. We wanted to provoke. We wanted to stand out. Because we were outsiders and no one took an notice ol us. I lure was definitely something adolescent about it. In "Die exemplarische Biographic des 1 ngcn Schoiu-lx-ck. It was in the act of figuration, then — an ironic, anti- illustionistic act of image making — that Schonebeck and Baselitz discovered a mode of artistic operation which closely corresponded to their self-images as radical antibourgeois pro- vocateurs.

In the Germany of the early s other important, extra- painterly positions were established. In Dusseldorf, Otto Piene, Giinther Uecker and Heinz Mack under the group name ZERO brought forth a cool, conceptually based response to the highly wrought, international style of abstraction rep- resented by the Abstract Expressionists and their European counterparts working in the Informel and Tachiste styles. Us- ing light and kinetic sculpture, focussing on minimalistic forms and restricted color choice, ZERO meant to establish a sort of aesthetic tabula rasa, where art could be mixed with radiant light and motion at the onset of a new and hopeful age.

The browns and dark gray greens of Informel were thus rejected for pure white, and Utopian, continental-scaled productions of light and movement were planned. Also in Dusseldorf Konrad Fischer-Lueg teamed up with Gerhard Richter and later Sigmar Polke to advance what they called Capitalist Realism, in which the consumerist reality of a materially refined and sophisticated Western world was both emulated and questioned in a variety of techniques that in- cluded performances as well as painting.

While Fischer-Lueg would soon become Konrad Fischer the successful gallerist, and while Richter and Polke developed into formally inventive painters of major standing represented in this exhibition and discussed further below , it is important for the present argu- ment to note that their work had, at a critical early moment, a strong extra-painterly component as closely tied to politicoso- cial commentary as it was to formal inquiry. It is clear, then, that within the media-rich, nontraditional context of the post- international art-scene, and particu- larly within the context of Germany itself, Refigured Painting, as an assemblage of objects, appears distinctly circumscribed.

The exhibition is composed almost entirely of four-square paintings, pigment on canvas on stretcher. Closely demarcated by format, the exhibition is restricted by forms as well: In almost none of the paintings do representation and narrative impulse yield to pure abstraction, and in almost every work recognizable figural elements are situated within a discrete pic- torial space. Across the exhibition, conventional format and pictorial structure recall established painterly traditions, and the critical and marketing nomenclature associated with the work — Neo-Expressionism, Neo-Fauvism, Die neuen Wilden — seconds the idea that recent German art continues where other historical painting movements left off.

The exhibition reads as counterpoint, and sometimes as reaction, to the main lines of the international avant-garde. One might further point out that the sheer square-footage of ambitious, well-painted canvas produced from the Rhine to the Schnee during the past three decades is an astonishing phenomenon in the recent history of art, parallels for which one might find in mid-nineteenth-century France during the age of the great Salons, when national identity was also at stake, when history-invoking scale was an important criterion, and when every stroke of the brush was licked by tradition and guided by craft, much as it is again in Germany today.

Other parallels might be found in Paris during the s and 20s, or New York in the s and 50s, when important movements in painting quickly coalesced into professional, quasi-in- stitutionalized coalitions of surprising organization and con- trol. This is to say that the combined aesthetic project rep- resented by Refigured Painting has all the characteristics of what once would have been called an academy, but which in the twentieth century is better described structurally as a nexus of cultural, social, political and economic interests giving rise to a vibrant scene — a scene in which independent positions are created, taught and widely followed, constituencies are formed, and markets sustained.

Fates of die Figure in Postwar German I'.

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Figur Politik The most penetrating critique linking new German painting to past styles, and, ultimately, to past ideologies, is Benjamin H. Buchloh's "Figures of Authority, Ciphers of Regres- sion. His observations, always trenchant, are worth quoting from at length. The reference to expressionism in contemporary West German art is the natural move to make at a tunc when the myth of cultural identity is to be established specifically against the dominance of American art during the entire period ot recon- struction.

Since the Second World War, expressionism, the German intuition of earls twentieth-century modern painting, has received increasing esteem. It had of course lacked ]iist this esteem in the post-World War I period, prior to its eventual suppression under fascism. But during the early sixties sky- rocketing prices indicated that expressionism had achieved the status of a national treasure, the best ot the pre-Fascist heritage of German culture.

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As opposed to the political radicalism ot Berlin dada, expressionism presented an avant-garde position acceptable to the newly reconstituted upper middle class, and it thus became the key object tor historical study, collection and speculation. The apolitical humanitarian stance of the ex- pressionist artists, their devotion to spiritual regeneration, their critique of technology, and their rotnanticization of exot- ic and primal experience perfectly accorded with the desire for an art that would provide spiritual salvation from the daily experience of alienation resulting from the dynamic recon- struction of postwar capitalism.

The politics of figuration reaches its other extreme in Donald Kuspit's riposte to Buchloh's attack which Kuspit termed "a Marxist blitzkrieg" , in "Flak from the 'Radicals': The new German painters perform an extraordinary service for the German people. Notes on the Return ot Representation in European fainting. The new German painting naturalizes a de-natured abstract notion of "being German," without first forcing a new German nature upon us to see these pictures is to be confronted with the special necessity and special free- dom of the Germanic today.

Indeed, it is the same necessity and freedom that constitutes us all, for we are all increasingly possessed by an abstract past that we must transcend. Above all, we are increasingly possessed by the demonic power of abstraction. It makes us forget our potential for naturalness, which, for all its uncertainty, is more ot a clue to our future than the certainty our abstract knowledge gives us.

The new German painters want to recover this apparentK specious naturalness because they regard it as the only alternative to an abstractness that has made us hollow. Scanning the show, one comes face to face with an astonishing abundance of free-floating figural signs: All lushly painted, and without doubt figural, the dominant images of this exhibition nevertheless remain unhinged from ground, drifting fragments of narrative intent.

Indeed, the most compelling forms within this show sys- tematically isolate themselves from the material, compositional and brushstroke-based concordance with ground that has been a fundamental assumption of both figurative and nonfigurative painting throughout the twentieth century. Images consistently emerge with the direct force of advertising art. Pictorial structures are al- most without exception precisely construed. Figure to ground relationships, however, often remain ambivalent, defined neither by composition nor by the organizing stroke of the brush.

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Whether it is Schonebeck's The Hanged Man, in which the human figure is physically maligned and stunted as if by the act of painting itself, the actual body parts losing out to a fury of painterly jabs; or whether it is Norbert Tadeusz's Woman on a Bed, in which the supine nude is tipped forward into vertical contact with the picture surface in this case, an American surface, or more precisely the Californian surface of Richard Diebenkorn and David Park, whom Tadeusz much admires , so that she neither sleeps nor stands, her bed becom- ing neither solid nor void; or whether it is Markus Liipertz's Ratman, in which the main actors swirl in an aqueous, gravity- free space; or whether it is Georg Herold's Egypt cat.

Arminius's Bat- tle cat. New York Figurative Expressionism, exh. He also finds important links between the American figurative painters of the s and 50s to Max Weber and Max Beckmann shown by Alfred H.

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The Kertess article establishes a con- tinuity of style and form specifically denied to the German figurative paint- ers by World War II, to whom Baselitz referred as a "fatherless genera- tion. Neither window nor billboard, the pictorial structures offer their figural elements neither an illusionistic envelope of space, nor a flat surface on which they can sit like bits of informa- tional applique. Time and again in recent German painting we see the fates of the figure launched with little regard for the unity of a pictorial entity; with some consistency, however, these works remain allusive in a way that is more coherent than not, alluding in particular to the communicative prospect of the figure on ground, though there is no consensus at all across the exhibi- tion as to what is to be done with the figure, how it is to be presented in its decisive moment, how and upon what it is to be grounded.

Many options are pursued, few of them following the primary concern of modernist painting, the formal pre- requisite which, while endlessly deferred, is ultimately self- referential — the pure stroke of the brush, the overall material complex, the submersion of the figure in the playful enterprise of formal manipulation. This nostalgia of form which charac- terizes modernist painting in its purist state, the endless self- reference which is modernism's most fulsome and pleasing mo- ment, is generally absent from Refigured Painting.

Nor was there a Frank Stella or Jasper Johns, or any other maker of objects who set such an unequivocal path with respect to the phenomenologi- cal requirements of post-iS German painting, that it could become anything like Pop Art or Mimimalism. Instead refig- ured painting exists as a series of varied responses — sometimes grouped in philosophical and geographical nodes — to the par- ticular German situation in the decade following the end of World War II. It is therefore important to recognize that as much as the figure — as a symbol for illusionistic, representational, anti- conceptual, antiabstractionist art, as the marker of a ret- rograde position, or as the harbinger of postmodernist pos- sibilities — is discussed and debated, figure qua figure is not at all the issue in recent German painting.

What is at issue throughout this exhibition is the specific means by which oil on canvas might communicate meaning in a period poised be- tween the petro-chemical and information ages, and in a coun- try that is forced to struggle, perhaps forever, as a postwar nation. The breadth and diversity of the exhibition further reveal how, in Germany between i and , painting cannot be understood as a genre — as a unified field of aesthetic activity.

Recent German figurative painting breaks down into a field much more complex than that of nonsculpture, nonper- formance or nonconcept art. While German figurative painting of the past three decades is a matter of image making that advances recognizable, representational shapes within varying types of narrative structure, the nature of figuration in post- 16 Lyotard, Jean Francois. A Report on Know- ledge, vol. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, trans.

To understand the means and motives of German figurative painting from i to NN is to understand it quite specifically as a postwar or — even more precisely as a post- 1 s — phenomenon. Figuration and Postwar Germany In postwar German painting of the s and 50s, political and cultural ideology materialized in the painted figure. Pro- gressive, obviously postfascist positions were associated with international modernism, which was in turn linked to specific forms of abstract painterly expressiveness and, more generally, to a certain agitated physicality of pigment on ground.

And within this cultural construct, the narrative consequence of "objective" painting was subsumed in the material truth of pigment on ground. In the critic Werner Haftmann asked "whether or not in view of the completeness of the collapse and devastation, the deeper mutuality of the creative forces had also been de- stroyed," and Alfred Hentzen wrote that the German situation in could not be compared to , because the soul- destroying cultural policies of National Socialism had left be- hind a tabula rasa.

It was impossible to take up where on had left off in The energy of creative indi- viduals was impaired by years of systematic humbug and in- timidation. The young had seen no real contemporary art. Klee and Kandinsky had died abroad; Schlemmer had died in Ger- many; Kirchner had shot himself in Switzerland What ensued in the post- war vacuum was a remarkable debate about the place of the figure in postwar painting, a debate in which the figure, im- 17 The term figurations is often associated with tin lium. Figurative painting is also often used as a catchword tor images containing pictorial narrative-paint- ing that is not nonobjective, but rather painting has the capacit to repre- sent recognizable scenes from the world around us.

Against these broad associations, there exists a much narrower and more technical meaning tor figuration which concerns the visually distmet appearance ot shapes against a flat ground. This essay uses the term in all its various meanings, with the precise usage given explicit! In Kunst m der Bundesrepublik DeutSl bland: Hitler- tainted program, arose from the canvas as a sort ot place marker of the immediate past, while abstraction or, more pre- cisely, nonfiguration, blessed by the absence of the figure, rep- resented the future.

Within the debate about objective versus nonobjective paint- ing, nonfiguration came to be understood as incorporating the tree gesture, the spirit ot internationalism and finally the politi- cal symbolism of a reconstructed world. I lie second w. The argument, however, could not be resolved, since it rested on humanistic debates about the human image.

If one looks closely at the apparently opposing trends, an odd and unexpected harmony becomes apparent " 22 This prospective harmony was noted by some observers even in the heat of the moment. The Vien- nese art historian Gotthard Jedlicka, for example, closed the famous "Darmstadt Debate" of July with the observation that, "Figurative and abstract art had to and indeed could exist side by side.

For figurative painting today contains much that is abstract. Within the debate about objective painting the figure rep- resented nonabstraction, but from to , abstraction became conflated with the obvious recognition of the painting surface itself, and with the materiality of paint on ground heav- ily handled. Therefore, figuration and nonobjective painting were not, in practice, mutually exclusive, and indeed a strong tradition of figurative painting developed under the protective cover of the material truth of paint on canvas.

In the represen- tational works of Carl Hofer and Werner Heldt, as well as in the Informel surfaces of Emil Schumacher, figural and objec- tive elements — which for now might be broadly defined as any referential element within the pictorial field having the capacity to narrate meaning beyond pure form — were almost always articulated by more than contour, more than line and local color, and more than modeling and conventional perspectival formulae. While the figure was indicated by all these techni- ques, it was also established three-dimensionally, in the very rising of pigment from the canvas surface.

Perhaps the most telling example of the conflation of figura- tive and nonobjective painterly strategies is found in the work of Baumeister himself, who became the leading German propo- nent of abstract painting in the postwar years, and yet whose work reveals a continuing interest in the tension between flat abstraction and allegorical figuration, a tension played out in a literal loading of the canvas surface with material presence. The figural participants in Baumeister's Atlantis, for example, are built up in thick brushstrokes against a thin blue aquatic background.

Embodied in paint, the highly abstracted fish and rocks and trident-bearing gods become a pure augmentation upon the surface, a clear example of the figurative elision into 11 The most recent attempt to document the postwar situation was the exhibi- tion and catalogue Kunst in tier Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 1 94 , Nationalgalcrie, Berlin, The catalogue is extremely thorough, and unlike the Royal Academy of Arts, London, exhibition German Art in the zoth Century, Painting and Sculpture, , which took place in the same year, takes a broad documentary and sociological approach, rather than a hierarchical and selective point of view.

One might even say that impasto, as a material pres- ence, had become a matter of aesthetic, quasipolitical conven- tion, and it was indeed materiality — thick painting — rather than nonfiguration that distinguishes the German painting pro- duction of the postwar years. There were of course other nonobjective conventions operat- ing, even in the work of Germany's most accomplished post- war painters — artists of the quality of Fritz Winter, Werner Heldt or Baumeister. The French models provided by Informel and Tachisme — Jean Dubuffet, Nicolas de Stael and Pierre Soulages — were vital for the approach they offered to the overall canvas surface.

American Abstract Expressionism was also quoted and emulated. Elision of form, exaggeration of shape and radical juxtaposition of disparate objects were used like a screen to separate the actual German situation from its painted image. In the face of the dominant forms of interna- tional modernism, in other words, the capacity to create a unique imagery, matched to the unique conditions of physical and cultural depletion, was simply not present in the decade following Germany's surrender.

The West German novelist and draftsman Giinther Grass has provided a first-hand recollection and analysis of the issues surrounding postwar German painting in a speech delivered from his chair as president of the Akademie der Kiinste in Berlin on May 6, , the fortieth anniversary of Nazi Ger- many's capitulation. In a passage that merits full quotation, Grass places his own experience as a yong German painter in the context of Germany's postwar situation: When I moved to Berlin as a young sculptor in January , the arts were in some danger of drifting into vapidity.

In litera- ture, the familiar sound of whispering grass was winning all the prizes, and authors like Wolfgang Koppen and Arno Schmidt were left out in the cold; in visual art Modernism was very much to the fore, but only on condition that it presented itself in an abstract form. All that unpleasantness was safely behind us, and the less that was seen of it the better.

Ornaments, by all means.

Materials and structures galore. Just nothing too explicit, that was all: There was no Dix, no Kirchner, no Beckmann, to force the remembered horror back into the picture. The controversy in the early s between the "objective" painter Carl Hofer and the apologist of the "nonobjective," Will Grohmann, extended into the ranks of the Kiinstlerbund. This was no ordinary artistic dispute.

It was about the percep- tion or nonperception of reality, as seen in a country that was defeated and divided, that had genocide on its conscience, and that, in spite or because of this, was busily engaged in repress- ing — or, as I say, making nonobjective — all that might evoke the past and act as a drag on its headlong retreat into the future. There came into being a strange, composite avant-garde: Guggenheim Museum, New York in Fates of the I igure in Postwai i lerman Painting ; i economic growth, and the avant-garde of the large-format, reality-masking canvas.

Very soon, the walls of executive suites all over the country — everywhere that a Beckmann triptych might have broken the bank — were hung with pomp ously titled specimens of vapidity, perfectly adapted to tin- architecture and the Zeitgeist of reconstruction. Meanwhile, over in the German Democratic Republic, there was a "Socialist Realism" that depicted anything but reality. And so, in spite of antithetical labels, an all-German consensus was taking shape: On both sides of the border, anyone who put things as they really were into his pictures, anyone.

It was Will Grohmann, not Carl Hofer, who had the last word. It may seem curious today, but then it was a fact of life: As Grass suggests, the lack of serious critical introspection is implicit in the very terms of the aesthetic debate that did occur, those terms focussing on the figure and the narrow issue of whether it should or should not be included in painted imagery, rather than how figurative imagery might be given a new and reconsidered context.

The easiest way to speak of those issues was to reduce them to simple distinctions based on the use of recognizable figures, though the reality of postwar German painting is far more complex. Figures themselves, when they made their appearance, were often painted in a manner that drew heavily on imported styles. Thus the linkages to the sanctified territory of modernism were more often than not clearly apparent even in the most il- lusionistic of postwar painting.

Theodor Adorno, who also participated in the "Darmstadt Debate," made use of early twentieth-century formalist arguments as a means of establish- ing the postwar German nations' continuity with the world, in the face of dominating international abstractionist tendencies. I would go further and say that even the elements of abstract painting have their origin in history and contain within them- selves, in a sublimated way, these same elements of the histori- 25 Text reprinted in Die Zeit May 10, And therein lies the cause oi the weakness ol a large proportion of post -war art in German.

Royal Academv of Arts. I ondon 1 Munich, In any truly distinguished radical painting, then would be the same multiple levels ol meaning as in a tradi donal work. In Adorno's formulation, abstract paint- ing contains history. The idea of an ineluctable material progress painting, leaning always towards a self-referential two-dimcn- sionality, joined with the political and economic emergence of the United States, investing abstract painting, and the aesthet- ics of reductionist modernism, with profound political mean- ing. Indeed, bj 19SO the eminent material value ot the picture plane was al- ready the most universally accepted assumption of interna- tional modernism.

In a seminal ; text on American Ab- stract Expressionism, for example, William Seitz could w rite Whatever its source, the space which ultimately appears on canvas is conditioned, perhaps first of all, by the medium of painting and by its internal tradition. Of all the structural criteria which provide a bond between the individualism ot modern painters, their creation of this "translucent" relational surface, the picture plane, is the most important.

So fundamen- tal is it, so taken for granted, that it usually remains on the periphery of discussion. V e also Angela Schneider's cogent and well illustrated essa. An outstanding documentar source is the chronology compiled tor the catalogue ol the exhibition Kunst m det Bundesrepublik Deutschland, in effect a month b month accounting oi contemporary lerman an and art politics draw n from important primar and sccondarv sources, u uh.

I or a systematic anal sis oi the specific political mean mgs oi abstraction,. Fascist realism, even in its various moder- nist forms, never permitted the human figure, or any other figurative element, to be overwhelmed by the ideas and styles and painterly techniques of Cubism, Futurism, Vorticism or any other of the major movements of the twentieth century.

A post-Nazi German art, therefore, would have to reattain the modernist ground, a ground upon which each stroke of the brush sat up or soaked in but at any rate never dissipated invisibly into narrative imagery. The expressive distance be- tween form and an optically verifiable world had to be un- equivocally reasserted in order to establish a clear position counter to that of National Socialism, which was itself defined almost exclusively through condemnation, led by the most de- termined art critic of the twentieth century, Hitler himself.

Among the pictures submitted I have observed a number of works which actually lead one to assume that certain people's eyes show them things differently from the way they really are I do not want to enter into an argument as to whether or not these people actually do see and perceive things in this way, but in the name of the German people I wish to prohibit such unfortunates, who clearly suffer from defective vision, for trying to foist the products of the faulty observation on to their fellow men as though they were realities, or indeed from dish- ing them up as "art. The desire to assert the picture plane has been one of the foremost formal determinants leading to the dissolution of traditional three-dimensional bulk and the materialization of empty volume.

To preserve the picture plane is to flatten, dissolve, or fragment solid bodies, and to fill void. Nationalsozialismus und "Entartete Kunst, " Munich, Munich, and quoted in part by Bussmann, Georg. In Ger- man Art in the 10th Century: Thick paint and "allover" designs signaled "material truth," and honesty to form signified Modernismus ex-fascis- mus.

Typical of the postwar period is the group that called itself, quite tellingly, the Junger Westen — the Young Western — whose members painted in more or less derivative styles ranging from Action Painting to warmed-over Surrealism. Few of their number will be readily recalled: Gustav Deppe, Emil Kiel?

Even in the work of the best of the postwar generation, the representational impulse is checked by "material truth. In seeking the hallowed ground of an obvious modernism, the work becomes caught up in what Leo Steinberg criticizes as "the single criterion for important progressive art.

The cosmopolitan gesture of the dense and angular brushmark, to- gether with the focus upon the figure as a concrete formal unit superimposed upon a two-dimensional grounding system, ef- fectively linked postwar German painting to both the domin- ant movements in international art and to the prewar tradition of Die Briicke and Der Blaue Reiter.

Erinnerungen einer grossmutter; roman .. 1856 [Hardcover]

It did not establish, how- ever, at the level of the construction of a painting — the level of aesthetic modes and motifs that create essential phenom- 32 Steinberg, Leo. Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art London, To do so would require the derailing of form and figure, a refiguring of painting. It would require, in short, the superimposition of two systems of expression, one at the level of form and "material truth," and the other at the level where stories are told.

Indeed, perhaps no other instance in modern art-history presents such a clear ex- ample of the power and professional authority of the modern- ist formal idiom as does the postwar period in Germany. If there existed in Germany a set of strong motivations to con- struct unique pictorial environments that could accommodate, in paint, the human issues of massive destruction and loss of cultural standing, then there were equally powerful forces at work in the international aesthetic arena that held those im- pulses at bay.

By the mids, however, those forces had begun to give way to fundamental changes in Germany itself. Germain's "Economic Miracle" was well underway by then. It by, , Germany's GNP had recovered to prewar levels, per capita income had almost doubled between and as con- sumer items, cars and major appliances flowed off the produc- tion lines with ever-increasing speed. I loter and Kauineister, principal polemicists, respectively, for figuration and nonobjective painting during the postwar decade, both died in [ In that same sear, Konrad Klapheck painted his tirst machine painting cat.

Having experienced the war only as young children, the faced a completely different set of issues with respect to the nation's moral standing than the generation of painters led by Schumacher, Baumeister and Hofer. The response of this generation of artists to the postw ar situation manifested itself specifically at the level of pictorial structure.

Historical context allows us to understand win the tradition of recent German painting presented in this exhibition is really less about figuration versus abstraction than about an altered mode of painting, one in which the modernist companj of mark and narrative form necessarily part ways. The separation between the specific mark ot the brush and the figurative image itself, which had begun already in the mid- and late- s with the work of Klapheck, Antes, Schonebeck and Baselitz to men- tion four artists represented in this exhibition and Horst Jans- sen, Paul Wunderlich, Helmut Sturm and Walter Storher to mention four who are not opened a broad and fertile field between formal manipulation and figurative representation, the painterly possibilities for which have been thoroughly culti- vated from that time forward.

Germany and the Germans: An Anatomy of Society Today New "tork. Against various charges thai tin Dot umenta exhibitions' essential role has been that of a promoter ot a German art h American art or r. I Ins development was reflected, rather than projected, in the next three Dot umenta ex hi hit ions. Foi other interpretations ot the Dot umenta event. In Docwnenta 7, exh. All recognizable entities including pic tures themselves exist in three-dimensional space, and the bai est suggestion ot a recognizable entity suffices to call up associ- ations ot that kind of space. The fragmentary silhouette ot a human figure, or of a teacup, will do so, and by doing so alienate pictorial space from the two-dimensionality which is the guarantee ot painting's independence as an art.

Thereby each art would be rendered "pure," and in its "purity" find the guarantee ot its Standards ot quality as well as ol its independence. Modernism criticizes from the inside, through the pro- cedures themselves of that which is being criticized. The implications of the development of Greenberg's Mod- ernism for painting, with regard to figuration and abstraction, were clear; figuration destroyed the purity of painting because it was bound, as representation, to things outside itself rather than focussing internally on its own mechanism.

Much has been written about how the rise of American art — of Abstract Expressionism in particular — and the shift of the world's art capital from Paris to New York, reflected America's unprecedented political, economic and military power in the wake of World War II.

Guilbaut's analysis ot the influential critical rhetoric ot Greenberg and Harold Rosen berg in particular reveals the construction ot a simple ideologi- cal equation between American Abstract Expressionist paint- ing and the liberty, freedom and truth that America held dear and vowed to promote and protect around the globe.