Markus Lüpertz

A tour of the abstract and concrete, a lasting impression of expression, less so of technique, a decorative aftertaste, art-historical contextualization with Aleksey von Jawlensky, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso, A. R. Penck, and Georg Baselitz among others. Markus Lüpertz titled the entire show after his series “Männer ohne Frauen—Parsifal” (Men without women—Parsifal). In the catalogue his work is described as reflecting an identity in constant development. The title refers, of course, to the medieval courtly romance of Wolfram von Eschenbach of the same name, and offers a bridge to Richard Wagner’s opera of 1877–82. In a direct connection to Lüpertz’s heads—with Lüpertz as a heroic painter—an interpretation of painting (and the painter) is established against this more-or-less literary background as the eternal search (the eternal searcher) for the ideal, for purity, for truth.

Perhaps one comes closer to an explanation of his dark, idiosyncratic palette if one compares it to the dark, idiosyncratic language in Parsifal. Furthermore, if one considers the huge number of themes and plots that this language harnesses—through repetition, in part, of meetings, places, characters—Lüpertz’s heads gain yet another dimension: that the painter (similar to the knightly hero) gains access to knowledge by recognizing the world of painting in this story (the entire world in the romance) and that he may not radically distance himself from the basis of painting.

Does he give these heads the slightly pained expression of one who is suffering in his own search? Perhaps not. The large, formally strong faces, reduced to masks, are stylized examples of the calculated steps of abstraction in this painter’s work, which are evident from the accompanying drawings. They represent a more-or-less private search. Bits of color, haste, and transparency—everything is concerned with painting. Lüpertz says, “I am a painter. Painters paint.” His is a modular system of composition that enables him to produce pictures quickly, and is certainly modern, almost “computer modern,” and the question about reconstituting painting is also very modern—always very modern. But here there is little risk: the grand gesture of painting shrinks to a Wagnerian stage set permeated with the patterns of a classical painting.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.