Critics’ Picks

Helmut Federle, Blume mit 4 Blüten (Flower of Sadness) (Flower with 4 Petals [Flower of Sadness]), 1982, pencil on paper, 12 x 8 3/4".

Helmut Federle, Blume mit 4 Blüten (Flower of Sadness) (Flower with 4 Petals [Flower of Sadness]), 1982, pencil on paper, 12 x 8 3/4".

Lucerne

Helmut Federle

Kunstmuseum Luzern
Europaplatz 1
November 3, 2012–February 3, 2013

This exhibition reiterates Helmut Federle’s position as an artist who rejects a formalist reading of abstract painting, insisting instead on the impossibility of separating formal properties from meaning. Small-scale paintings and drawings from the last thirty years, all restless meditations on the place of images and objects in culture, have been hung throughout ten rooms, each of which is thematically titled.

In Federle’s configurations of geometric form, black, acid yellow, and muted earth color are the core hues. The paintings both absorb light, sucking it into the strata of thin layers and stains, and emit light, pushing it out again as if the works themselves contained a light source. Take Dark Night Three II, 2009, a painting constructed from angled circling shapes of transparent blacks and grays that open onto a pale area that appears to generate light. 1 & 1 Painting III (For Ezra Pound), 2010, is one of the most recent paintings in this room, a composition of five-sided shapes, alternately black and olive green. Referencing Charles Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal (1857) is Blume mit 4 Blüten (Flower of Sadness) (Flower with 4 Petals [Flower of Sadness]), 1982, a pencil drawing on colored paper that balances geometric shape and line approximating several flowers on a stem. As in poetry, content for Helmut Federle operates within a structure that is inclusive of its appearance and what it aims to say.