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Horst Antes' first major one-man exhibition of paintings in nearly two decades opens at Martin-Gropius-Bau
Horst Antes, Rote Scheibe, 1969. 60 x 70 cm. Sammlung Großhaus, Schleswig© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2013.

BERLIN.- Horst Antes is one of the most internationally significant figurative artists of recent decades. Like few other German artists he has contributed to the global artistic debate. He has been represented at the Documenta in Kassel on three occasions. He has also exhibited at the Biennales in Venice and Sao Paolo. His works have also been seen in all the major European, American and Japanese museums and collections.

The exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau focuses on his painting work, covering all his creative phases over a period of five decades – from casual beginnings circa 1958 to the spectacularly large and austere in-house images of the last phase. The show in the Martin-Gropius-Bau is the first major one-man exhibition of the paintings in nearly two decades. About 90 pictures are on display. They are supplemented by other works closely bound up with his painting oeuvre: two sculptures, four “votive” images, and some books and portfolios designed by Horst Antes.

Not only the many loans from abroad and pictures from the artist’s own collection that are being shown publicly for the first time make this exhibition unique. It is also remarkable for highlighting the great contribution made by Horst Antes to the history of 20th century art and leave an indelible mark in the visitor’s memory.

We begin the exhibition with the brightly coloured action painting of the late 1950s. This is followed by the red pictures (“The Red Majas”) of enormous inten-sity and archaic eroticism. A larger category of works is ushered in with the emergence of the “Kopffüssler” (lit. “Head-Footer”), that artificial figure that was about to make a triumphal entry into the whole world of art. Another hall brings together pictures that are directly connected with the artist’s adopted country, Italy: whether through the Masters of the Renaissance, the gentle landscape between Florence and Siena, or the clear light of Tuscany. The next thematic category is the religiosity of the artist who – as a collector – has always shown a passionate interest in the magic origins of religions. For the first time two sets of motifs – one associated with Christianity (the tools of the crucifixion, stigmata) and the other with the beliefs and rituals of the Hopi Indians (rain, serpent, tablets) – are brought together. The final halls document the turning point in the work of Horst Antes who – after the Falkland War – turned his back on the figure he had invented in favour of new themes – windows, boats, date pictures – and especially the house. In the final hall eight very large, mostly black “house” pictures make an overwhelming impression with their austere idiom and massive presence. The “house” figure has replaced the human figure and stands for the whole of humanity and its thoughts.

The exhibition in the Martin-Gropius-Bau offers an opportunity to rediscover and reevaluate the complex oeuvre of Horst Antes.

Horst Antes was born in Heppenheim in 1936 and has lived in Sicellino, Karlsruhe and Berlin. His teacher at the Academy in Karlsruhe was H.A.P. Grieshaber. In the abstraction versus figuration debate of the late 1950s Horst Antes was quick to combine action colour compositions with figurative elements. The 1960s saw the emergence of the “Kopffüssler” figure, since when his work has enjoyed worldwide renown. In 1982, under the influence of the Falkland War, the first stencil figures appeared. In 1987 Horst Antes began the series of “window” and “house” pictures. At the same time he produced numerous large-scale sculptures that were set up in public spaces in Düsseldorf, Salzburg, Stuttgart, Vienna and Mainz.

Antes took part in Documenta III (1964), IV (1968) and VI (1977) and had one-man exhibitions in New York’s Guggenheim Museum (1984), in the Sprengel Museum, Hanover (2002), in the Kunsthalle, Würth (2006), and in various Japanese museums. He won the UNESCO Prize for Painting at the Venice Biennale (1966), the Marzotto-Europe Prize for Painting (1968), the Grand Prix of the Sao Paolo Biennale (1991), and the Culture Prize of the State of Hesse (1991).

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