Monday, 16 January 2012

Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art from Germany

The current offering from the ever expanding collection of contemporary art collected by Charles Saatchi is the Gesamtkunstwerk: New Art from Germany exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery (until 30th April). As was arguably the case with the two previous shows that showcased Western art (American and British), the standard was again not as high as the three earlier exhibitions at the Saatchi's current Kings Road location that showed work from the East (Chinese, Middle Eastern and Indian). As Charles Saatchi has previously helped to launch the careers of the YBA generation and put on some great exhibitions in the process I dare not to suggest that he's lost his ability to unearth new talent and his gallery continues to be hugely popular, although I would look much further back in time for the last great exhibition by him. The County Hall (on the South Bank) was the gallery's home from 2003 to 2005 and hosted shows that were in my opinion far more thought-provoking, interesting and original than they are now. This only serves as another reminder of the shame it was when over 100 (British) artworks from this earlier collection were destroyed in the 2004 East London warehouse fire in Leyton.

Returning to the Gesamtkunstwerk exhibition, there were however some artworks (within the 14 rooms) that stood out for me:

Traum Der Sarazenin (The dream Saracen) (2007) Markus Selg
(Sublimation print on fabric)

I feel that these two prints by Markus Selg had more of an impact than his sculptures in this first room. The figure in the foreground in the Gauguin-esque Searching For Ruwenzori (below) looks like its in 3-D and almost coming out of the work.

Searching For Ruwenzori (2010) Markus Selg
(Sublimation print on fabric)

MLR (1992) Isa Genzken
(Lacquer on canvas)

The textural effect that Isa Genzken has created in these two paintings is arguably far more refined than her sculptures on display. Referring to the latter works the text in the Saatchi exhibition guide states: 'she takes an anything-goes approach to the materials she uses.'

MRL (1992) Isa Genzken
(Lacquer on MDF)

Untitled (2009) Gert & Uwe Tobias
(Woodcut on paper on canvas)

I like the (almost Miro-like) creatures in these two canvas' (above/below) by the twin brothers Gert & Uwe Tobias.

Untitled (2007) Gert & Uwe Tobias
(Coloured woodcut on papers mounted on canvas)

When initially glanced at from a distance only what looks like two eyes, a mouth and perhaps a pair of glasses were visible, but Jutta Koether's Mede (below) strikes me as one of those 'the more look - the more you find' paintings. The details, such as figures, emerge from the canvas as its stared at more closely.

Mede (1992) Jutta Koether
(Oil on canvas)

These three portraits (below), with the haunting eyes staring back at us, are part of Thomas Zipp's Schwarze Ballons (black balloons) installation.

part of Schwarze Ballons (2005) Thomas Zipp

Installed using scaffolding to hold it propped against a wall, the huge Sunset by Andro Wekua (below) consists of 170 glazed ceramic panels.

Sunset (2008) Andro Wekua
(Glazed ceramic panels, metal framework, steel scaffolding)

Pretentious Crap (2010-11) Zhivago Duncan
(Wood, glass & mixed media)

The wonderfully named Pretentious Crap (above and detail's in next two photos below) by Zhivago Duncan is enchanting, although it was a shame the 'train/vehicle' on the main track was not working on my visit.

Volker Hueller's Drei Halunken Und Ein Halleluja (Three scoundrels And A Hallelujah) (below) has a Cubist feel to the painting.

Drei Halunken Und Ein Halleluja (2009) Volker Hueller
(Mixed media on canvas)

Josephine Meckseper's cabinets filled with 'curiosities', such as The Complete History of Postcontemporary Art (below) reminds me of some the work of the artist Joseph Cornell. He collected and juxtaposed found objects in small, glass-fronted boxes. Both Meckseper's and Cornell's choice of objects are symbolic and probably surreal.

The Complete History of Postcontemporary Art (detail) (2005) Josephine Meckseper

I admire the way Dirk Bell utilises mixed media in these next three artworks:
The feeling of movement in Wolf Hamlet Madonna Elmex; Abgrund uses contrasting materials to great effect and I like the delicate finish in Rabbit's Moon.

Wolf Hamlet Madonna Elmex (2006) Dirk Bell
(Mixed media on canvas)

Abgrund (Abyss) (2008) Dirk Bell
(Mixed media)

Rabbit's Moon (2007) Dirk Bell
(Mixed media on canvas)

One artwork that did survive the move to Kings Road is the only permanent installation at the Saatchi Gallery. Richard Wilson's 20:50 (below) is a room thats flooded with recycled engine oil that creates great visual effects. Although worth seeing at least once it is a shame that visitors seem no longer able to walk down the gangway into the work, as that added a disorientating effect to the artwork and room.

20:50 (1987) Richard Wilson
(Used sump oil and steel)

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