reviews

Gustav Metzger, Historic Photographs: No. 1: Liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, April 19—28 days, 1943, 1995/2009, black-and-white photograph mounted on Foamex board, rubble. From the series “Historic Photographs,” 1990–. Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.

Gustav Metzger

Serpentine Galleries

Gustav Metzger, Historic Photographs: No. 1: Liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, April 19—28 days, 1943, 1995/2009, black-and-white photograph mounted on Foamex board, rubble. From the series “Historic Photographs,” 1990–. Installation view, Serpentine Gallery, London. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones.

AFTER A DECADE of producing abstract paintings, Gustav Metzger began a new phase of his career when, in 1959, he wrote his manifestos of “auto-destructive art,” aiming to harness the destructive powers of modernity for aesthetic experimentation. Importantly, such writings were from the start presented alongside formal pronouncements of intent: for instance, Cardboards, 1959, a group of found, flattened boxes; and Bag, 1959, a clear plastic bag, also found, filled with cast-off packing materials and fabric. The ancillary quality of these objects highlighted the processes in industrialized capitalism whereby things (and people) are deemed either valuable or disposable. Through object lessons placed in the gallery context, Metzger’s purpose was thus shown to be twofold: While focusing on the destruction wrought by society, he also sought to relentlessly engender debate, hoping to

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