The forthcoming exhibition at the Kunsthalle Würth
will be the first-ever presentation of all the Max Ernst works in the Würth Collection. The core of the Ernst holdings is a unique collection of books and prints, which in recent years have been supplemented by considerable numbers of oil paintings, sculptures, works on paper, original collages, drawings and frottages. The resulting collection reflects Ernsts visual universe with well-nigh unparalleled diversity, a virtually complete representation from our own stocks, supplemented by several major loans.
Max Ernst (1891-1976) is one of the most exciting and influential artist personalities of the twentieth century. The effects of his oeuvre have extended far beyond his own lifetime. His biographical notes were in part freely invented, and he always retained an ironic detachment from his own art and techniques. His imagery reflects objectivity and imagination in equal measure. Ernst is a transgressor of borderlines and a master of twilight zones. His art is multimedial and his life and work are marked by breaks and changes of theme. All in all, these reflect his both visionary and skeptical view of the world.
Born in Brühl near Cologne, after reluctant service in the First World War Dada Max immediately entered a lively exchange of ideas with Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp, and artists in the Dada centers Zurich and Berlin. In Paris, he immersed himself in the Surrealist movement around André Breton and Paul Eluard, soon joining them as a protagonist in the service of the Surrealist revolution. In the mid 1920s, Ernst discovered frottage, a rubbing technique inspired by the texture of a wooden floor in Brittany. With his collages and collage novels, he brought the Surrealists notion of moving in the frontier region between interior and exterior world to a point. In the figure of Hornebom, part bird, part man, he found an alter ego, a soul-mate incarnated. Ernst invented such birdlike dream figures in variation after variation. He saw them in newspaper illustrations, discovered them in rubbings taken from seashells, set them fluttering through his paintings. They were his faithful followers, and he was Head Bird, Max the Beak, Loplop, Hornebom. After escaping Nazi persecution to the U.S., Ernst entered an intensive exchange with dealers and collectors in the New World. In the early 1950s he returned to settle again in France. It was only then that honors began to be heaped on him by his native country.
With his subtle destruction of supposed realities and purposely ambiguous dream- and nightmare-like imagery, Ernst so thoroughly undermined the certainty that reality consisted only of everyday experiences that his works continue to be deeply provocative to this day. For unlike Sigmund Freud, who hoped to explain dreams in rational terms, Ernst, as Werner Spies has pointed out, retained their anarchic nature. While always basing his works on existing information and facts, he nevertheless transformed these by a sort of alchemistic process, playing tricks on off-the-rack reality and throwing open the door to unseen worlds. With the resistance to philistines and herd artists visible in every work, his brilliant stagings of the grotesque, absurd, bizarre, irrational and inexplicable, Ernst remains as relevant as ever. His collages are visual universes that find correspondences in the works of major film-makers from Hitchcock to Fellini and Lynch. There is a special room devoted to these directors in the exhibition, the Salle Obscure, a cinema space and temporary home that is bound to provide an additional exciting visual experience for our viewers each Friday.