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Geist und Form: Ten Painters from Berlin

August 30 – October 11, 2013

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10175024_660907310611090_879479428054016439_nGeist und Form gives insight into the broad spectrum of painting that is practiced in present-day Berlin. The artists show diversity in approaches, ranging from expressive to conceptual, and from fundamental painting to mixed media. Although each of the artists upholds a unique position, there is also common ground in the way all participants balance interest in the visual with inner content.

The work of these artists is based on visual qualities that can appeal directly to the viewer. On another level, the presented painters engage in artistic research that gives their work further meaning. The artists do not stop at purely formal issues, their work embodies an intellectual and spiritual understanding of their role as image makers. There is, as the title points out, both Geist und Form in their work, and a simultaneous presence of both these elements was a critical criterion in the selection of the ten artists. The intangible or “geistige” content is connected in a meaningful way with the surface, the optics and the texture of the work.

The exhibition reflects the diversity of painting attitudes in Berlin, which since the mid-nineties has developed into a major European art centre. There are conceptual positions, (abstract-) expressionistic attitudes, formal investigative approaches, actionist and performative ways of painting, process-oriented works as well as painting that proceeds from an existential interest. These attitudes are not divided strictly over the artists, but rather they appear in combinations and in overlap with each other.

The diversity shows that there is no such thing as a Berlin school of painting. But Berlin, with its developed artistic infrastructure and its unique history, serves for all artists as a relevant and stimulating context for their work. Each painter has spent a great deal of time in the city of Berlin. Its context of cutting edge contemporary work, alongside many comprehensive collections of modern and historical painting, creates a panorama of contemporary art that affects every artist in his/her own studio practice.

The show, with its diversity in positions, is regarded as an opportunity to investigate and rethink the notion of abstraction in early 21st-century painting. While in the early modern movements abstraction was connected to a specific style and program, if not ideology, in the present it is rather a quality that can be part of various visual languages, both figurative as well as non-figurative.

Abstraction in this show does not refer to a specific visual vocabulary, but rather it is regarded as a way of seeing, or an inner coherence that can be traced in the work of all ten painters in a different way. Thus the show proposes an a-historic use of the term “abstraction.” In the publication and in a side-program of lectures, talks and interviews, this motif will be further explored.

The exhibit and programs related to Geist und Form are made possible by support from The College Arts and Humanities Institute and Themester at Indiana University Bloomington, and Germany’s Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen.

 - Jurriaan Benschop