Markus Lüpertz (*1941) is one of the most highly acclaimed artists working in Germany today. His paintings have played a decisive role in the international art scene since the 1960s. The exhibition “Markus Lüpertz. Über die Kunst zum Bild”, which opens this autumn in the Haus der Kunst, sheds light for the first time on the meaning of the serial character of Lüpertz’s art. The more than 200 paintings and drawings, many of them from worldwide collections, reveal not only how deeply interconnected his oeuvre is, but just how much it is informed by a cinematic manner of looking at the world. The result is a completely fresh look at Lüpertz’s artistic oeuvre, which also demonstrates just how much his work is devoted to revitalizing the age-old medium of painting.
Initially Lüpertz admired not just Westerns of all kinds, but particularly those made by John Ford. He also enjoyed watching auteur films taking distinct pleasure from those directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, Jean-Luc Godard and Alain Resnais. All of them largely dispensed with storytelling, intent instead on capturing the abstract quality of their character’s inner states, private longings and poetic visions. By the end of the 1960s their “film poems” would help Lüpertz break through to a radically new syntax of painting, whose possibilities the artist has continued to build upon right to the present day. From the beginning Lüpertz made series’ of images, a principle not only at the fundament of his oeuvre but one that according to the artist had its origin in film. The show, which is curated by the American art historian Dr. Pamela Kort, is the first to bring the significance of Lüpertz’s serial manner of working into focus.
Two artistic phases are at the core of the exhibition: the time period between 1963 and 1980 and the one extending from 2000 to today. The show begins by zooming in on Lüpertz’s series of Donald Duck (1963) and “Dithyramb” (c. 1964–1972) drawings and paintings. Many of their motifs were inspired by the Twentieth-Century-Fox logo. Albeit it these partly abstract works preclude any rapid identification of that trademark. While his “Tent” canvases – which will also be on view – may not have been inspired by cinematic motifs, they suggest a zone beyond the confines of known time and space, that we so often encounter in auteur films. Between 1972 and 1974 Lüpertz risked everything with the paintings that soon gained him international respect: the so-called “German Motifs.” Borrowed from prominent collections, he steel helmets, shovels or officers’ caps that populate these works represent a new stage in Lüpertz’s development of a unique pictorial language. Though these images seem to recall the darkest moments of German history, their meaning remains open-ended.
The work that Lüpertz created between 2000 and 2019 is not only serial, but also gives themes and motifs emergent in his paintings since the 1970s, a completely new twist. The unusual sculptural quality of many of the figures in these paintings seem to have taken as one of their points of departure Alain Resnais’ “sculptural film” Last Year at Marienbad (1961), which the artist admired ever since it came to German movie houses in 1972.
Though not a retrospective, the exhibition attempts to keep pace with Lüpertz’s decidedly non-dogmatic painting, which transcend medium-specific boundaries in the interest of attaining images with the same kind of staying power as those we encounter in the cinema.
Curated by Pamela Kort
The exhibition is made possible by Erich Obermaier, Entrepreneur from Munich. Supported by Fundacíon Almine y Bernard Ruiz-Picasso para el Arte and Almine Rech Gallery.