The world of Georg Baselitz’s art is his recurring images and the memories of German expressionism of 1910, which is all about telling inner truths about reality. His world is the memories of 1950s and 1960s anxieties, the influence of the American avant-garde, Willem de Kooning and the painting style of 1980. There is also the simplicity of seated and upright figures and brilliant, moving colors as well as a lack of commentary and a large scale format.
In the context of new art debates about Manifesta12, fake news, communication, in the times of constant flux of art on small personal digital screens, the visitors of Georg Baselitz’s exhibition are sometimes puzzled by his recurring, monumental, impasto images, alienated by being put upside-down , in a « left », dada-style technique. The small screen format is not enough to capture this nihilism of street art.
Baselitz said: “I hate working with oil paints, I hate tempera, I hate pastels, I hate brushes, I hate the canvas. I just find all this equipment terrible….But then when I go to see a painter-friend in a studio I haven’t visited before, and I smell the oil paint, straight away I feel at home, and I feel great”. (Gretenkort)
The series “Orange eater” depicts full-body and profile figures with their arms bent, hands raised, circular round accents around the eyes. This is an ancient Egyptian formula of a man with the orange solar symbol, and at the same time it resembles an eye-catching, left-wing graffiti, street art.
Graffiti artist often place slogans on their images, and there is the word ZERO on some of Baselitz’s paintings and sculptures, as in depersonalized portrait “Mein well richt macht”, (Kunstsammlungen, Dresden). ZERO is the name of the paint shop where G.Baselitzhe bought paints.
But we can not avoid the radical, polemic activism of “ZERO” inscription, and as according to L.Witgenstein, language does not provide private understanding, even if the speaker refers to what is known only to him ( there is no private language argument) – “zero” is understood as “zero”- which is a symbol of abstraction.
Georg Baselitz’s art retrospective was shown at Foundation Beyeler this spring, and is now at the Hirshhorn museum and Sculpture garden in Washington.
Written by: Irina Vernichenko