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Art of the 1980s: A Düsseldorf Perspective at Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen
Katharina Fritsch Drei Bilder in drei Farben, 1990-91 Holz, Folie, Nessel, Lack, Farbe, Edition ½ Foto: Richard Stoner, Pittsburgh Copyright: Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2010.
DUSSELDORF.- The exhibition “Auswertung der Flugdaten” throws a spotlight on the art of the 1980s from a Düsseldorf perspective. Featured are works by 10 internationally recognized artists who emerged from the milieu of the Düsseldorf Art Academy. The presentation is supplemented with a selection of works by seven artists from various countries having shared attitudes, aims, and working approaches. On view are nearly 70 sculptures, installations, and photographs, including multi-part works, by Richard Deacon, Katharina Fritsch, Andreas Gursky, Reinhard Mucha, Thomas Schütte, Jeff Wall, and others.

The 1980s have often been misjudged as conservative or artistically sterile. In reality, the decade was characterized by radical upheavals. The east-west conflict was gradually defused, and the contours of the era of globalization emerged with increasing clarity. To an unprecedented degree, contemporary art received the attention of a wider public, and was reshaped as an important component of the “culture industry.”

In Düsseldorf, the internationally oriented art scene of the 1960s and 70s, exemplified by artists such as Bruce Nauman, Daniel Buren, and Marcel Broodthaers, continued to exercise a strong influence on the academy milieu and the gallery scene. Here, younger artists like Schütte, Mucha, Gerdes, and Fritsch signaled their mistrust of the purported breakthrough to Neo-expressionist painting — a tendency which shaped broad swathes of German art production at that time. Instead, they attempted to revive the critical potential of the avant-garde, in the process striving to expand and transform it in enduring ways. Acquiring greater emphasis now were the pictorial, metaphor, narrative, memory, and mise en scène. In their art, late Modernism reflects upon itself, while at the same time opening itself up to the themes and forms of the contemporary lifeworld. Central to their concerns is sculpture in its diverse manifestations, but also photography, whose trajectory toward its current worldwide status as a central mode of visual art was launched here in Düsseldorf.

“Was Neo-expressionism really the way out of the crisis of Modernism?,” asks curator Julian Heynen. “This exhibition presents a different picture. It seeks to present a reflective and sensuous art at the highpoint of the epochal upheaval of so-called Postmodernism – and moreover in its multiplicity and in its divergences.”

“Auswertung der Flugdaten” casts a focused gaze on a decade during which the art of Düsseldorf (and of Germany as a whole) enjoyed enormous prestige internationally. All of the exhibited works date from the 1980s, and are among the key works through which these artists first gained wider public recognition. The presentation demonstrates how these creative personalities — who found themselves in a situation often characterized as the “neue Unübersichtlichkeit” (the “new complexity”) — reinterpreted central aspects of modernist art after the decline of avant-gardism, thereby supplying impulses for the postmodern situation which continue to make themselves felt even today.

The artists: Richard Deacon, Peter Fischli and David Weiss, Katharina Fritsch, Isa Genzken, Ludger Gerdes, Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Harald Klingelhöller, Jeff Koons, Reinhard Mucha, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Schütte, Cindy Sherman, Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, Franz West.





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