MIXED MEDIA (I)
EXHIBITION Mar 10 — Apr 24, 2015
The March 7, 2015 opening of the exhibition Mixed Media I: About Portrait will inaugurate a new and irregular exhibition series that aims to manifest the relationships among different media. Photography, painting, drawing, graphic design, and sculpture from the modern period through to contemporary art will come together in a fascinating conversation. The first presentation, from March 7 through April 24, 2015, is dedicated to portraiture and brings together photographs, drawings, and prints of various themes, materials, and epochs. Their impressive pictorial diversity, ranging from nineteenth-century Impressionism to the surreal aesthetics of the mid 1940s, can be experienced anew in countless pairings. Ferdinand Hodler encounters Erwin Blumenfeld; Heinrich Kühn faces Erich Heckel; Helmar Lerski meets Emil Nolde. The portrait has long been central to Western art. One of the most popular genres of fine art, it contributed greatly to the development of individualistic representation. The nineteenth century invented innovative portraiture with its representation of the private. Portraits of the early modern period, beginning with Impressionism, conveyed mindset and sensory perception in open-ended, subjective images. In expressionist art, totality and social status receded into the background, foregrounding instead the desire to visualize the internal. World War I exploded all obligations. The interwar period sought to forge new identities of both singular individuals and the true face of the classes, be the interpretations expressive in gesture, exaggerated in caricature, or soberly observant. At the same time, photography underwent a transition: from the conventional mass portraiture of the cartes de visite to the ambitious amateur scenes and the realization of Pictorialism’s “subjective eye.” As in other arts, the photographic portrait reflected the times: sociopolitical upheaval and radically new aesthetics. In Heinrich Kühn’s and Rudolf Koppitz’s Pictorialist portraits of children and women as well as in Paula Modersohn-Becker’s paintings of the same subjects, the themes of the private and the intimate intersect with a connection to nature and physicality. The physical signs transport the sense of an individual being and leave palpable impressions in Kühn’s and Modersohn-Becker’s images, while Koppitz’s children’s portraits also convey their realistic essence. Such realism is also present in Käthe Kollwitz’s self-portrait from 1915. Koppitz similarly made objectively precise typological images for his series Land und Leute, which, despite their different visual language, correspond with the strong lines of Wilhelm Morgner’s and Christian Rohlfs’ forceful, expressionistic black-and-white images of men. Helmar Lerski’s physiognomic images in light prove particularly malleable in conversation with any number of different works of his contemporaries. The female portrait from the Berlin series Köpfe des Alltags and Jeanne Mammen’s drawing of a woman show two versions of the new woman, sketched in but a few fine lines and details. The strong aspect of the young man in Metamorphosis 591 from Lerski’s masterwork Metamorphoses through Light (1935-36) matches the severe, linear notion of Max Beckmann’s 1922 woodcut self portrait. The effects of light on textures such as hair and skin tone, which seems to glow from within, can be seen in both Erwin Blumenfeld’s and Jeanne Mammen’s work. Blumenfeld used montage and other darkroom techniques to create surreal images of haunting beauty, as in his portrait of Erika Mann. Details and framing emphasize a glance, a flood of curly hair, or a silhouette. Such reduction serves to capture characteristics such as self-confidence or introspection. Lovis Corinth’s sketched self-portrait, Hodler’s painted portrait of a woman, and Erwin Blumenfeld’s photographic portrait of artist Leonor Fini also make use of the same focus. From the end of the nineteenth century onward, related imagery and concepts appeared in various materials independently from one another. Our exploration of modern painters’ and photographers’ parallel views brings to light both surprising and convincing correlations and visual echoes in themes, compositions, and styles. The zeitgeist is evident in all.
We would like to thank Kunsthandel Jörg Maaß (Berlin), Galerie Michael Haas (Berlin/Zürich), and Kunsthaus Bühler (Stuttgart) for their kind collaboration.