Pop & Politics
Albert, Baehr, Wintersberger
Early works
19 January – 2 March 2019, Opening: 18 January, 6-9 p.m.

In West Berlin at the end of the sixties, art discourse was strongly influenced by American hard edge painting, minimal art, and pop art. In their explorations of political and social themes, artists such as Hermann Albert (*1937), Ulrich Baehr (*1938), and Lambert Maria Wintersberger (1941–2013) also drew on the works of predecessors such as John Heartfield or George Segal, combining this critical tradition with elements from pop art as it was emerging at the time. “Pop & Politics” retraces this process through an exhibition of works from the sixties. 

The early paintings of Hermann Albert (*1937) are characterised by two-dimensional, strongly coloured figuration. He paints women in various phases of movement: as they dress or undress, move about, and bend down or straighten themselves up. “In a world defined by the ordinary, my aim is to show nothing else” (Hermann Albert). In panels placed together to form a series, the posture of the figure changes only minimally, or the setting is compressed on a single painted panel into smaller surface sections against a smooth, monochrome background. Albert’s “Women”, “Poses”, and “Moments” are painted in cool, bright acrylic colours.

Ulrich Baehr’s history paintings, as they might be called, with titles such as “Frieze for Lovers” (1965), “Sports Palace” (1966), “Stalin” (1966), “Le Genéral” (1966), or “Neon Mao” (1968), were created between 1964 and 1968. Baehr presents the dictators, politicians, and rulers we see in his works as “soberly distanced ‘negatives’ of the historically inherited, cheaply reproduced physiognomies and rituals of German power and glory. … The violent brushstroke tears apart the well-studied pose until it is rendered ridiculous; it reduces the pomp of the staging to meagre staffage” (Eckhart Gillen). Photos from newspapers and magazines serve Baehr as an inspiration for his paintings, though never as direct sources. He erases parts of the figures’ faces and bodies, combines spaces and bodies, and uses facial expressions or gestures to capture the diminished salience and recognisability produced by this technique. Baehr later switched from the matt, tonal colours of distemper paints to bright, garish colours of acrylic, exemplified in the painting “Neon Mao” (1968). The artist recently donated this work to the collection of the Poll Art Foundation.

Lambert Maria Wintersberger – declared by the art critic Heinz Ohff declared to be “Germany’s most original pop artist” – co-founded the legendary self-help gallery for artists Großgörschen 35 in 1964, together with Ulrich Baehr, K. H. Hödicke, Markus Lüpertz, Wolfgang Petrick, Peter Sorge, and other painters in West Berlin. During the four years of its operation, the gallery served as a place where artists found common cause in turning away from art informel and tachism and striving for representationalism in painting.

The fragmentation of the figure and the resulting multiplication of singular perspectives, or “Ein-Sichten”, are characteristic for Wintersberger’s view of Western consumer society. In a muted style which foregrounds contours, he reworks the visual world of advertising with oversized fingers and fingernails alongside giant mouths in tonal, cloying colours. This is followed by the full-format “Detonations”, “Splittings”, and “Shacklings” of individual body parts in subdued, cool shades of grey.

The exhibition “The 60s & 70s in Berlin: Albert, Kraemer, Lange, Petrick, Sorge, Works from the Collection of the Poll Art Foundation” shown at the Foundation (Gipsstraße 3, second floor above the ground floor, by appointment, extended until 2nd March) offers additional insight into the art scene of these two decades in West Berlin.