14 Sep 2021 – 9 Jan 2022
Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles
Hauser & Wirth’s new exhibition “Appearance,” displays the work of Günther Förg. Specifically his grid paintings, or ‘Glitterbilder,’ a series and method of painting that Förg practiced for over a decade.
As you first enter the pristine South Gallery you are introduced to a large open room, suitable to present the sizable works of Förg. These grand grid paintings inhabit nearly all of the available wall space and as you venture further in you find yourself more surrounded and drawn in by the size and surprising colors of the works. The scale of these pieces acts almost as a mural or tapestry. They invite you to get lost within and naturally conjure questions of how these are made, what are they, and why? At first you may only see simple lines, then perhaps maps or windows, then landscapes or even figures and faces. The beauty of abstraction and these pieces in particular is enhanced by the time you spend with them, in the transformation that occurs with your changing perspective or mindset. The longer you look, the more you see.
Förg’s fixation on grid painting was inspired by Edvard Munch’s “Death of Marat II.” The painting depicts the death of French Revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, however it wasn’t the subject matter that captured the attention of Förg, rather it was the technique. Munch’s expressionist portrayal of the scene uses a rough grid of color in place of a detailed background. Förg was fascinated by this use of abstraction to completely fill out the picture. He began using this motif on any canvas (or newspaper) he got his hands on. He was dedicated, borderline obsessed, with this method and produced a bountiful collection of works that pushed the technique to its extremes.
There is an energy that emanates from every piece that hangs throughout the gallery. The emotion and physicality is apparent through the brush strokes. While some seem structured and thoughtful, others feel frantic, full of power, a release of inspiration exploding onto the canvas. You would believe that Förg had created these just the day before if not for a date in the corner of nearly every painting that accompanies his signature. The repetition of the grids spawned creativity and experimentation that is most visible in the later works of his Glitterbilder period.
After seeing the entirety of the pieces displayed it almost seems that the product is not the final goal with Förg. The process seems to take the lead, the act of painting, of creating these grids, day by day and year by year. Slowly evolving and learning from each subsequent piece, as you walk through the space the pieces invite you to take them in as a complete work and a glimpse into an era of Förg’s career. Each painting and each moment spent absorbing them reveals a little more of the creator until you feel that he could almost be present in the room; methodically working on a new canvas to add to the collection.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Günther Förg’s career began in the early 1970s, at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich (1973 – 1979), where he studied under Karl Fred Dahmen, one of the most important and highly influential figures of Art Informel. Supplementing his understanding of gestural abstraction, Förg attended exhibitions at Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich, which played an essential role in the development of the West German art scene. The gallery presented a host of international artists, including Robert Ryman, Sol LeWitt, Blinky Palermo, and Cy Twombly, the latter two of whom Förg cited as seminal influences. Förg was included in his first group show at Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart, in 1981, presented alongside contemporaries Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, whose shared artistic approach demonstrated a subversive reframing and critical understanding of modernist tropes. In rejecting formal adherence, Förg embarked on what would become a lifelong commitment to the conceptual and serial-matic advancement of art.
Installation view, ‘Günther Förg. Appearance’, Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 2021
© 2021 Estate Günther Förg, Suisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Courtesy Estate Günther Förg, Suisse and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Zak Kelley