Christine Mehring

  • Hans-Peter Feldmann

    In 1972, as Hans-Peter Feldmann’s work first garnered international attention at Documenta 5, Avalanche asked the German artist a series of questions.

    In 1972, as Hans-Peter Feldmann’s work first garnered international attention at Documenta 5, Avalanche asked the German artist a series of questions.

    In response, the magazine received nothing but photographs. For example, in reply to “What do you consider one of the most important aspects of your work?” they received a picture of a weary, dreary ’50s crowd passing a billboard beauty. The interview was never published in Avalanche, but such refusal of the verbal evidences the uncompromising commitment to the

  • View of “Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964–77,” 2011, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. From left: Untitled, ca. 1967; Untitled, 1969-70; Untitled, 1971, Untitled, 1968–69; Blau/Grün (Blue/Green), 1968. Photo: Lee Stalsworth.

    Blinky Palermo and “If you lived here, you’d be home by now

    BLINKY PALERMO’S LOVE for America has long gone unrequited. The German painter’s art was inaccessible for decades on this side of the Atlantic, save for small commercial-gallery surveys and the Dia Art Foundation’s holdings of certain significant works. This despite Palermo’s embrace of American culture, from Thelonious Monk to Barnett Newman, and his resulting move to New York in 1973; despite his legendary status among painters who have come of age in the US since then, from David Reed to Julian Schnabel to Wade Guyton; and, most shockingly, despite Palermo’s momentous gifts to these American

  • PUBLIC OPTIONS: THE ART OF CHARLOTTE POSENENSKE

    CHARLOTTE POSENENSKE IS A MIRROR TO OUR BAD CONSCIENCE. In May 1968—as the revolutionary ambitions of the ’60s reached their pinnacle—the thirty-seven-year-old West German artist expressed her struggle to reconcile her artistic practice with her political convictions: “I find it difficult to accept that art cannot contribute to the solution of pressing social problems,” she wrote in the Switzerland-based Art International.¹ A year and a half later, she issued a less equivocal statement, tartly declining to submit a proposal for an art project in a public-housing development in Bielefeld, West

  • Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1943-1977

    Artists and critics wax rhapsodic about
    Blinky Palermo, but a deep understanding of his work is only beginning to emerge.

    Artists and critics wax rhapsodic about

    Blinky Palermo, but a deep understanding of his work is only beginning to emerge. His no fewer than six posthumous European surveys, excepting a resolute and spectacular 2007 retrospective in Düsseldorf, have not done Palermo any favors, confining him to the dubious role of distinctly German quasi-Expressionist. Dia’s stunning holdings of the late Metal Pictures Palermo made in New York City, together with catalogue contributions by curator Lynne Cooke, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Suzanne Hudson, and others, promise an American perspective

  • Thomas Bayrle, Christel von der Post, 1970, silk screen on paper, 22 5/16 x 19 11/16".

    Thomas Bayrle

    After mounting retrospectives of the work of Lothar Baumgarten, Öyvind Fahlström, Robert Filliou, Blinky Palermo, and Antoni Tàpies, MACBA now gives Thomas Bayrle a turn.

    Few museums have done as much to put Europe on the map of postwar art as MACBA. After mounting retrospectives of the work of Lothar Baumgarten, Öyvind Fahlström, Robert Filliou, Blinky Palermo, and Antoni Tàpies, MACBA now gives Thomas Bayrle a turn. Since the early 1960s, the Frankfurt-based artist has been obsessed with the notion of “the mass”—a discrete unit repeated numerous times in a work. The informal continuity of his oeuvre’s relentless repetitions makes pointedly disconcerting equivalents of disparate iconographic sources—whether drawn from consumerist or

  • TOOLS OF ENGAGEMENT: THE ART OF FRANZ WEST

    OVER THE PAST two decades, FRANZ WEST has gained renown for his boundary-blurring installations of sculpture, furniture, and their perplexing mongrel offspring. Less well known, however, are the Austrian artist’s formative efforts within the fervent Viennese cultural scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s, where he forged the participatory aesthetic and unassuming political tactics that have made him a touchstone for future generations. On the occasion of West’s first US retrospective, opening this month at the Baltimore Museum of Art, art historian CHRISTINE MEHRING unearths these roots and explores their relevance to West’s ongoing polymorphous production.

    ON JUNE 7, 1968, the crowd in Lecture Hall 1 of the University of Vienna’s New Institute Building was treated to an evening of “Art and Revolution,” consisting of writer Oswald Wiener’s lecture on the relationship between language and thought, as well as less decorous displays of onstage nudity, vomiting, and urination. These stunts, courtesy of Wiener’s Viennese Actionist pals, later led an outraged public to dub the legendary event the Uni-Ferkelei (campus mess or ribaldry), while the authorities charged participant Günter Brus with defecating and masturbating during a rendition of the national

  • Martin Kippenberger, The Happy End of Franz Kafka's “Amerika,”, 1994, mixed media. Installation view, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

    “Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective”

    Martin Kippenberger’s first retrospective in the United States provides a much-needed opportunity for a truly art-historical assessment. What in his work goes beyond mere irony, and what aesthetic or conceptual substance remains at a temporal, cultural, and personal distance from its fervent emergence?

    Few postwar artists have proved as fiercely contested yet captivatingly elusive as the German Martin Kippenberger (1953–1997). The myth that has grown around his life and art operates at the intersection between the artist’s provocative persona, nomadic restlessness, and addictive habits, on the one hand, and, on the other, a seemingly bottomless oeuvre that encompasses not only “works” in every conceivable medium but also his activities as a curator, collector, organizer, and scenester. In recent years this myth has threatened to eclipse—or become—the art itself, as a

  • EMERGING MARKET: THE BIRTH OF THE CONTEMPORARY ART FAIR

    WITH THEIR RELENTLESS EMPHASIS on the new and the now, it is perhaps fitting that the origin of today’s rapidly multiplying contemporary art fairs has, at least on this side of the Atlantic, disappeared into the dustbin of history. When and where, even, was the first contemporary art fair of the kind, for better or worse, so familiar to us all? It was held not in Miami, or in New York, or even in Basel, but in Cologne. And from the moment KUNSTMARKT 67 opened its doors on September 13, 1967, it inaugurated a model that remains surprisingly close to its current successors, which so often trumpet

  • MASS APPEALS: THE ART OF THOMAS BAYRLE

    ON THE NIGHT of April 11, 1968, Thomas Bayrle and two friends, Bernhard Jäger and Uve Schmidt, were busy in a basement print shop in Frankfurt, producing a poster of German student leader Rudi Dutschke. Earlier that afternoon, Dutschke, the prime mover behind the West German Extraparliamentary Opposition, known by the acronym APO, had been shot by a presumed right-wing extremist. The poster responded directly to the three bullets that were fired: the revolution does not die from lead poisoning! At that moment, however, it was not clear that Dutschke would live. (He did, although complications

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

    ELEVEN SCHOLARS, CRITICS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

    JOHN BALDESSARI

    Kierkegaard once said that his goal in writing was to make life difficult for people. I read Edward Said’s On Late Style (Pantheon) because its title suggested that it might offer insights into my life’s pursuit of trying to understand art. The subtitle of the book is Music and Literature Against the Grain. The photo of Said on the back cover shows his shirt collar slightly askew, which I chose to understand as an unintended message.

    There are no artists (in the narrow sense) discussed, but the book contains

  • Anselm Kiefer

    Will Anselm Kiefer ever overcome his limited American reputation as Germany’s premier history painter, working the nation through its National Socialist past? This sixty-work survey will provide US viewers with a metaphysical take on the artist’s practice. The exhibition traces the dialogue between heaven and earth in Kiefer’s oeuvre, from one of his earliest artist’s books, The Heavens, 1969, to recent engagements with Jewish mysticism.

    Travels to the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal, Feb. 12–May 7, 2006; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, June

  • Josef Albers, Blue Front (variant), 1959, oil on masonite, 23 1/2 x 27".

    Josef Albers

    One by one, the famous “Homage to the Square” paintings are easily dismissed as Albers-the-artist's brainy illustrations of Albers-the-teacher's color theories. En masse, they confound more than explain. Curators Weiermair and Vecchi assemble thirty-five “Homages” along with some forty other paintings and photo collages for Albers's first monographic show in Italy.

    Jasper Johns once took a color test designed by Josef Albers and reported back: “Mr. Albers, I took your color test and got all the answers wrong.” Albers beamed, “Dot's vunderful. You got 100 percent.” One by one, the famous “Homage to the Square” paintings are easily dismissed as Albers-the-artist's brainy illustrations of Albers-the-teacher's color theories. En masse, they confound more than explain. Curators Weiermair and Vecchi assemble thirty-five “Homages” along with some forty other paintings and photo collages for Albers's first monographic