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Deichtorhallen Hamburg Provides a Comprehensive Insight into the Art of Poul Gernes
Poul Gernes, Target/Skydeskivebillede, 1967, Enamel paint on masonite, 122 x 122 cm. Vestjællands Kunstmuseum,Sorø. © Poul Gernes Estate. Foto: Anders Sune Berg
HAMBURG.- Deichtorhallen Hamburg is staging a retrospective showcasing over 400 exhibits that provide a comprehensive insight into the art of the Danish painter, sculptor, filmmaker and performing artist Poul Gernes (*1925, † 1996), who numbers among the most influential of Scandinavian artists. In the 50 years that he was active he had numerous exhibitions; in 1988, his work featured in the Danish pavilion at the Venice Biennial, and he shaped the face of more than 150 buildings in Denmark. He left behind an impressive oeuvre, which is fascinating on account of its extraordinary complexity and his aesthetic is as topical today as it as when he developed it in the 1960s and 1970s.

Curator of the exhibition Dirk Luckow (General Director of Deichtorhallen Hamburg) describes Poul Gernes’ oeuvre as hilarious, anarchic, opulent, joyful, folkloristic, funky, psychedelic – while at the same time also emphasizing the fact that Gernes took his cue in part from Constructivist architectural traditions in art, such as the Bauhaus. Paul Gernes constantly sought to link art to life by means of color and design. Art to his mind had to become an integral part of life. Today, it is quite striking how there are parallels between the works of many younger artists and those of Poul Gernes. Furthermore, wherever one looks in urban space today and in ready-to-use design one encounters highly colorful patterns such as stripes and folkloristic flowers that are astonishingly reminiscent of Gernes’ aesthetic.

In 1961, Poul Gernes joined forces with art historian Troels Andersen to establish the radical Experimental Art School in Copenhagen, which was known as Eks-skolen for short, and quickly became an indispensable part of the Danish art scene. Characteristic of his work are the picture series from the 1960s and 1970s, that can be located somewhere between Minimalism and a Pop Art feel. In them, simple circles, letters, plain patterns or targets are varied. Gernes preferred to present them in complex room installations. In addition to producing paintings and sculptures, from 1977 onwards Gernes concentrated on the painting and interior decoration of public buildings, including the 25-storey hospital in Herlev on the outskirts of Copenhagen, (he had started this project already in 1968).

THE EXHIBITION AT DEICHTORHALLEN HAMBURG
For the first time this exhibition provides Gernes’ extensive and intensively colored painterly abstractions in a setting commensurate with their spatial dimensions. In the Deichtorhallen it is possible to present his unusually large-format work series in a spacious museum architecture with 3000 square meters. In this way, the monumental scale of Gernes’ pieces that oscillates between abstraction and ornamental design becomes appropriately tangible as an objective of his art. After Hamburg, the retrospective will move on to the two municipal galleries of Malmö and Lund.

This exhibition sheds clear light on the important stages in Gernes’ development – from virtually unknown studies from the 1940s to the large-format stylized floral and linear forms that featured in his late flower paintings of the 1990s. Previously little exploited sources including numerous works from Gernes’ estate, not to mention museums and private collections enable visitors to gain a new understanding of Gernes’ art – in particular as regards to how he linked art and the face of everyday life.

Deichtorhallen Hamburg | Poul Gernes | Dirk Luckow |


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