In 1977, when, with documenta 6, the range of influence of conceptual art reached its peak, some young painters led by KH Hödicke (b.1938) founded the ” Galerie am Moritzplatz ” in Berlin, which it can be considered the nucleus of what in the 1980s was known internationally as Wilde Malerei (“wild painting”). It is the beginning of an upheaval, since it was believed that conceptual art had decreed the end of traditional artistic genres. Above all figurative painters such as Germany Baselitz (b. 1938), B. Koberling (b. 1938) and J. Grützke (b. 1937) seem to represent historically outdated positions.
The return of painting is not only a German phenomenon, but has parallels especially in Italy, to then spread internationally. Precisely in Germany, however, specifically German traditions have been invoked for this return, in particular that of expressionism. Under the label of ” neo-expressionism ” very different tendencies of the new painting of the eighties are classified, although in some painters (as for example in Baselitz when he overturns his paintings) a conceptual approach emerges.
According to an opinion that soon became mainstream, at the end of the 1970s the cold intellectualism of conceptual art was replaced by a Hunger nach Bildern (“hunger for images”; title of a book by WM Faust and Germany de Vries, 1982). The Zeitgeist exhibition, staged in West Berlin in 1982, reinforces this orientation, which is also reflected in the art market.
The new wave of “ spontaneous painting ” is represented by a generation of artists who, however much they can connect to the painting of outsiders of the seventies such as Baselitz, J. Immendorf (b.1945), M. Lüpertz (b.1941), Hödicke, Koberling and S. Polke (b.1941), refused in a much more radical way than these the imperative avant-garde ” in favor of figurative taste. Centers of this painting are Berlin and Cologne. In Berlin, the students of Hödicke, with their ” Galerie am Moritzplatz ”, developed its loose decorative style, with large surfaces, and the theme of the great metropolis. Through this thematic and stylistic identity these artists are linked to the tradition of the Berlin expressionists. Within this context, each author identifies his own specific area. Salomé (b. 1954) thematizes the sense of the body of the homosexual; H. Middendorf (b. 1953) the ecstasy of the rock singer; R. Fetting (no.
Unlike what happens in Berlin, the Cologne group Mülheimer Freiheit comes not from painting, but from conceptual art, with masters such as Beuys, H. Haacke and J. Kosuth. In W. Dahn (b. 1954) and GJ Dokoupil (b. 1954) the wild aggressiveness of style is simulated, the approach is coldly rational. The artists are not interested in the gestures of painting, but in the transposition of the experiences of conceptual art into painting. This has the function of a medium in which one can reflect, compare or figuratively confuse the speculative content of the most diverse fields, from language to psychology, politics, art. On the basis of a figurative conception, therefore, a sort of conceptual painting is born, but without the coherent almost missionary sense of conceptual art of the 1960s and 1970s. In this case, the commentator’s ironic distance prevails.
The painting of this generation, however, has little to do with that of Baselitz or Lüpertz, often regarded as his ” fathers ”. For the latter it is a question of exploring the pictorial medium and enhancing its possibilities, while for younger artists the problem is that of contents and their transmission through images.
The new ” wild ” character has a parallel in sculpture, which in the rough processing of the material and in the polychromy – of great effect after the period of minimalistic ” poverty ” – goes beyond the strictly conceptual limits of the medium. The sculptors A. Höckelmann (b.1937), E. Wortelkampf (b.1938), but also the painters Baselitz, AR Penck and Lüpertz, who especially since the Eighties have also worked in sculpture, are the main exponents of this orientation, which is followed by younger artists.
Another student of Beuys, A. Kiefer (b. 1945), is often counted among the exponents of neo-figurative painting, even if his work is not part of the trends outlined above, nor is it limited to the field of painting. In his paintings of landscapes and cultural spaces, Kiefer focuses on symbols, myths, literary themes and authors with a clear National Socialist connotation. In this way he highlights the taboo that has taken place against this whole context as a result of the failure to rework Germany’s Nazi past. His paintings show dense traces of overlapping and intersecting working procedures, so that the work seems to exhibit the layers of human memory from its own body. Kiefer thematizes this process of memory also in photographs and sculptures.
Another solitary figure of figurative painting is J. Immendorf (b.1945) who, referring to the Caffé Greco di Guttuso, shows in his versions of the Café Deutschland (1977-83) a panorama of political realities and dreams, representing, through a naivestyle that takes up that of the Agit-Prop painting, the situation of the two Germany as marked by the trauma of the Nazi past.
A new form of postmodern conceptualism characterizes a series of artists who, simultaneously with the boom of new painting and almost in the shadow of it, operate with the most diverse means. In this case it is a question of the eclectic reworking of forms and motifs coming from both history and other cultural spheres. History, like the present, becomes the linguistic means of a new conceptual art.
According to ALLUNITCONVERTERS.COM, Klein (b.1951) manipulates, for his large black and white photos, photographic and television images that appear not as a collage, but merged into a homogeneous unit of surface area. The image structure lacks a center; what is shown suggests anguished visions. Motifs also include photographs from the Nazi era. Germany Merz (b.1947) also confronts the motives and aesthetics of fascism, filtering “ whips ” images of the environment, culture and art history, through an alienating elaboration that frees them from burden of their connotations. With them Merz builds stylized yet sober installations, which evoke an impression of classical preciousness. The images thus acquire an ambiguous’ ” aura ”, which celebrates and at the same time demolishes the recalled context.
The sculptures of S. Huber (b. 1952), H. Kiecol (b. 1950) and Th. Schütte (b. 1954) are presented as ironic reflections of a postmodern spirit. Huber’s objects and installations are based on the fetishistic character, which removes the elements employed from their daily context, presenting themselves as a sarcastic commentary on the culture in which they were born. Schütte’s and Kiecol’s sculptures deal with architectural themes in different ways.
The irony of the reference to the social environment often characterizes other addresses of sculpture of the Eighties, differentiating them from the precursors of the Seventies, characterized by a political or social orientation. This ironic distance could be defined as the symptom of the 1980s, which links these works to contemporary ” postmodern ” trends. Sculptors such as H. Radermacher (b.1953), with his minimalist sculpture interventions in urban space, Germany Rohling (b.1946), with his colorful objects that comment on the flamboyant world of consumerism, and O. Metzel (b. 1952), with his rough sculptures which, placed on the site of social conflicts using the material found there, have in common with the tradition of the 1970s the fundamental characteristic of conceptual art.
It can be said that towards the end of the Eighties, with the loosening of the dominant role of the new painting, which had a specifically German imprint, the language of the artists of the Federal Republic of Germany develops again – or like before – in close contact with international currents. The tendency towards staging assumes increasing importance, which changes the previous conception of the installation. The socially produced material and the ” autonomous ” artistic object are brought back into a scenic space with a figurative structure. This is a method which favors a sort of revival of figurative rhetoric and which uses means such as metaphor, allegory, symbol. Among the exponents of this address are K. Kumrow (b.1959) and B.