San Francisco

Paul Wunderlich

Achenbach Foun­dation for Graphic Arts

In a group of color lithographs lent by the Eric Locke gallery, Wunderlich (b. Berlin, 1927) not only proves himself to be a skilled contemporary printmaker, but a pene­trating social commentator as well. Both perceptive and analytical, he is probably the first young post-Hitler artist to really get to the heart of the psychology that made the hideous atrocities of the Third Reich possible. As an impressionable youth, he saw the disintegration of German moral fibre under the exploitation of chauvinism, followed by fear, and later, remorse. The nightmarish excesses resulting from these age-old mass emotions have left their mark on his work.

These prints, literary in content, are saturated with an almost clinical sad­ism. In them he seems to perversely en­joy the very events he protests, yet is strangely sensitive to their horror. Low­keyed colors and a fine, buzzing line create a mood of unreality, but not of unbelievability. Wunderlich wrings every drop of emotion from his subject. As a specific case, there is the myth of Leda and the Swan, about which he has edited a series. He makes of it a uni­versal statement of the role of woman, and by extension, of people-groups. And a protest.

There are many versions of the Leda myth: she was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a handsome swan; artificially inseminated by the thoughtless, egg­throwing Hermes; indirectly victimized by buck-passing Nemesis; or prey to her own curiosity about a blue and sil­ver egg. Wunderlich chooses the first version, and develops it through very persona I interpretation to the point where Leda finally lies dismembered, only her indestructible femalia remain­ing. The spirit of the predatory swan, floating high, ready for new conquest, is temporarily detached from the man-god who has dispassionately resumed his role as king of the mountain (Parnas­sus).

Wunderlich may be overly preoccu­pied with the macabre, but it is a macabreness from which much of the world has just been delivered, and to which all of it may again be condemned. Internationally minded, revealing a thorough knowledge of Picasso and, es­pecially, Dubuffet, his lineage really be­gins with Bosch and descends through Goya, Blake, Ensor and Redon. But only a 20th-century artist could bring out such refined and perverted cruelty as these prints suggest.

Paul Wunderlich