The support must be the idea, the strategy or the attitudeGünther Förg, 2004
The Directors of Thomas Dane Gallery, in collaboration with Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin are pleased to present an exhibition of historic paintings on lead from the 1980s by distinguished German artist Günther Förg.
Regarded as continuing the legacy of abstract colour paintings of Imi Knöbel and Blinky Palermo and influenced by the pictorial language of Robert Ryman and Cy Twombly, Förg has, since the early 1970's, replayed the vocabulary of modernism.
On the occasion of this exhibition, major works executed in the same year are brought together. Sheets of lead wrapped around rectangular wooden armatures provide the material support upon which Förg applies thin layers of acrylic paint. Förg first started painting monochromes or duochromes as a student in Munich in the mid 1970s. He sought an alternative to priming his surfaces in black or grey, which led him to test a variety of supports including wood, aluminium, copper and lead. The dark, heavy, non-absorbent lead allowed Förg to depart from the monochrome and expand his painting palette, complicating his vocabulary of colours and motifs.
Three distinct groups of ten paintings on lead are presented: one in which the bright layers of colour are hemmed in by white vertical margins; in another the paint is applied nearly to the top edge, a rim of lead left exposed on each panel; the third a colourful constellation resembling flags or a semaphore signalling alphabet. Five vertical white monochromes point to the recurring motif of a set of steps as if viewed from above, drawn from the artist's photographs and the film, Vertigo. Included in the show is a diptych: two horizontal panels, the foreground a forest green, the background a diluted turquoise panel, a pairing which reads as a landscape distilled to its essence. These works demonstrate an intuitive reflection on perspective, space and depth, rather than a dogmatic search for equilibrium. Across all of these sequences, planned as they may seem the colours still appear a little random, neither too harmonious nor too discordant, but adhering to a particular internal logic.
Förg's paintings, drawings, photographs and wall murals are informed by the artist's physical surroundings. In many ways, Förg dissects his environment like an architect, in aerial views and cross sections. The borders, stripes and rectangular swathes of colour are drawn from everyday architecture: the geometry of a window, the space around a door frame and a flight of stairs all serve as models for Förg's paintings.
Förg extracts fragments from his keen observations and transfers them onto his leaded surfaces. The support is more than a vehicle for painting, it functions as a 'strategy'. The paintings from 1987 are conceived in several parts, as a series or as part of a sequence. Günther Förg mines the history of modernism by employing strategies of abstraction and constructivism, yet without appropriating, criticising or using them ironically. Across these works we see Förg really locating a template which allows for both repetition and flexibility, and one which persists in his work today.
Günther Förg was born in 1952 in Fussen, Germany. He studied at the Akademie der bildenden Künst in Munich with Karl Fred Dahmen (1973-1979) taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe (1992-1999) and later returned to the Akademie in Munich in 1999 as a professor. He has exhibited widely abroad at Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin; Kunstverein, Munich; Kunsthalle Wintherthur; Museum Boijmans VanBeuningen, Rotterdam; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Reina Sofia, Madrid; Wiener Seccession, Vienna; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, the Chinati Foundation, Marfa and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Günther Förg lives and works in Switzerland.
A catalogue of the exhibition is available with an essay by David Anfam.