Skarstedt UES will present a comprehensive exhibition of work by renowned German artist Georg Baselitz at their 79th Street gallery, which will feature 12 paintings from both his Drinkers and Orange Eaters series’, dating from 1981-82. The exhibition brings together paintings from public and private collections to demonstrate the breadth of Baselitz’s creativity during this two-year period. The Drinkers and Orange Eaters remain some of Baselitz’s most expressive and vividly colorful works.
Georg Baselitz was born in Deutschbaselitz, Germany, in 1938. He attended the Hochschule für bildende und angewandte Kunste in East Berlin in 1956 and the West Berlin school from 1957 – 1963. In 1965, he was awarded a scholarship for a year’s residential study at the Villa Romana in Florence. Very early in his career, Baselitz emerged as a pioneer of German Neo-Expressionism, rebelling against the dominance of abstract painting, proposing in its place a very personal, expressive figurative art rooted in the art brut movement. In his early works, he concentrated on several figure types, including heroes, rebels, and shepherds. From 1969 on, Baselitz painted his subjects upside-down. He adopted this method to stress the artifice of painting. The artist is also well known for his sculpture and printmaking. Drawing upon a varied collection of influences outside of mainstream Modernism, including art of the Mannerist period, African sculptures, imagery rooted in the Art Brut, as well as the Existentialist art and literature of Dada and Surrealism, Baselitz developed a distinct artistic language.
At the time these works were painted, Baselitz found himself surrounded by the new images of a younger artistic generation taking up German Expressionism as a spontaneous experience, practiced using clowns and checked patterns. Baselitz’s use of vibrant reds and yellows—even a harlequin motif—lends a theatrical quality to his work, while the depiction of glassware and fruit adds a playful element of celebration and bacchanalia.
In these two figurative series’, Baselitz reacts to the work of his German Expressionist predecessors — Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde, among others—paying homage to his artistic forefathers while simultaneously establishing distance from them. Championed as a leading exponent of German Neo-Expressionist painting, Baselitz displays a newfound freedom from ideological pressures with his Drinkers and Orange Eaters. Baselitz explains, “The ’80s helped me to rearrange everything; I was able to set up a whole range of ideas and experiences anew, which meant I was able to break everything down so I could make something out of it again.”(1)
Furthermore, Baselitz’s impulsive, tactile method of working creates a dynamic and almost animated surface, composed of fractured imagery. Thickly applied paint forms the rudimentary features of his figures, while his forceful handling of the medium emphasizes individual brushstrokes. Baselitz described his painting style for the Orange Eaters as “boxing with both hands, so to speak.”(2) He uses form, style, and color to shatter traditional assumptions—turning his subjects on their heads in order to impart meaning. Baselitz deliberately rendered his figures upside-down on the canvas, defying conventional visual interpretation. This inverted orientation frees his work from connotation without entering the realm of pure abstraction. Beyond the human form, Baselitz’s Drinkers and Orange
Eaters represent a critical time in history and an evolving ideology of liberation.
Baselitz’s work has been widely exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. Major retrospectives of his work have been held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1983; which later traveled to Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and Kunsthalle Basel); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1993); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1995; traveled to Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC, and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (1996 and 2011); and Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007). Baselitz has represented Germany at the Venice Biennale (1980) and participated in Documenta 5 and 7 in Kassel, Germany (1972 and 1982). Georg Baselitz lives and works in Basel (Switzerland), at the Ammersee (Bavaria, Germany) and in Imperia (Italian Riviera).
Skarstedt is working closely with the artist on this seminal presentation, as well as a detailed catalogue published on the occasion of the exhibition. Georg Baselitz: Drinkers and Orange Eaters will be on view at Skarstedt (20 East 79th Street) from May 11 through June 26, 2015.