Markus Lüpertz — Classique hors norme
Classique hors norme
Past: September 10 → November 10, 2011
While history no doubt recorded the fact, the degree to which it fell short is now clear, a point brought home by this exhibition: having, at the turn of the 1960s, been one of the few artists to explore a new path for German art, freeing it of its fears and authority figures, Markus Lüpertz is now affirming a unique position and ambition with work wholly steeped in the enigma of its own being. In the space of a few years, his Dithyrambs gave his painting the ascendant in the debate between abstraction and figuration. His work brilliantly asserted its place without renouncing either the vitality of informal art or the thrust of realism, which was a particularly strong force in German culture during the post-war years. Its motifs, and in particular the aptly named German Motifs, combined a basic formal intuition with a memorial dimension that was extended in writings propounding the poetic heritage of the Nietzschean dithyramb, as opposed to a viewpoint based on social analysis and the human sciences. With a decisive sweep attested by his large-format pieces, the painting affirmed expressive capacities that were heightened by a concept that was integral to the form and inherent in its repetitive structure, through which it touched on a surreal dimension that speaks to the imagination directly, bypassing stylistic and cultural references.
However, Lüpertzʼs artistic development can only be fully appreciated over time, in a historical time frame and in the historical period of the generation that brought about a new German art scene, and a golden age, but also a more turbulent and chameleon-like generation that led him — in his art, his aesthetic musings and his poetics of creation — to discover a new meaning in a tradition that he originally set out to overcome and control. The presence of his art bestows a singular vividness on the relation between a version of the Baumstammen from 1966 and the bozzetti from 2009 made in preparation of the monumental Hercules installed in 2010 on an old Ruhr Valley mining site at Gelsenkirchen. What is at stake in these intense bursts of energy concerns an idea of art that stands apart from notions of evolution, one that doggedly confronts the existential need for a fresh beginning, an aspiration to more light, to lightness and grandeur. Lüpertz had adopted the social persona of an aristocratic and verbally provocative bohemian type. This front both reveals and masks him. Especially the notion of genius, which he views as something that makes up for the handicaps of talent. By using the word genius, the artist is referring to the history of that continually restarted beginning that allows us to understand art ever since the Greeks. In this stripping of classicism, which excludes all forms of restoration in favour of an eternal return whose form and content are always unknown, sculpture has played a key role. In 1975, at Malrauxʼs Louvre, he was profoundly affected by Maillolʼs nudes and the ancient statuary, the impact of which is manifest in the very principle of his Standbein-Spielbein from 1982. Against the politics of message-making and the philistines of provocation, Lüpertz went back to the humble labour of form, working with elements forsaken by avant-garde purism. He took up the great figures of mythology (Apollo, Daphne, Mercury, Athena), heroes (Prometheus, Judith, The Philosopher, Mozart), and discovered a new idea of abstraction in the work of Poussin, Corot and Courbet, as well as of Munch and Beckmann: the abstraction of drawing, sculpture and painting themselves.
Through his radical critique of institutionalised interpretation and divertissement, Lüpertz has unceasingly defied the categories of stylistic history in affirming that the only definition of art is the definition it chooses for itself. Art is constantly undercutting what we think we know about it, and doing so with the very rules and principles that history in the common sense of the word is always forgetting, if not actively trying to prohibit. After the central motif of the Rückenakt, Lüpertz has recently taken an interest in landscape, in his small-format paintings, and in painters unloved by modernism, such as Puvis de Chavannes and Hans von Marées, who sought their Arcadia in a vocabulary that they pushed to its limits. Following Picasso, he identifies art in a lost language, in a repertoire of fragmentary forms whose meaning corresponds only to an idea unrelated to the problems of his times. He seeks to make audible the dissonance of one who, by addressing the creatures of art, the gods and their mythology, aspires to that special freedom that he can define only by the magical word “atmosphere.” An expansive force that is either in the painting or that is not, that he has sought out for over nearly fifty years, never compromising with the zeitgeist. Something objective and abstract that changes everything into eternity.