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"Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History" at the Hirshhorn presents rarely shown paintings
Markus Lüpertz. Installation view of Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Left to right: Zelt 9—dithyrambisch (Tent 9—Dithyrambic), 1965; Zelt 50—dithyrambisch (Tent 50—Dithyrambic), 1965; Zelt—dithyrambisch (Tent—Dithyrambic), 1965. Photo: Cathy Carver.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is showing an exhibition of influential German artist Markus Lüpertz. Offering unparalleled insight into the artist’s pioneering early practice, “Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History” (May 24–Sept. 10) showcases more than 30 paintings from Lüpertz’s formative years in the 1960s and ’70s, as he challenged the limits of painting and forged his own style amidst the unrest of postwar Germany.

One of Europe’s most prolific postwar painters, Lüpertz rose to international prominence in the 1980s as a leading figure of neo-expressionism, and he has worked across a wide range of media for more than 50 years. This exhibition offers visitors the first in-depth insight into a groundbreaking but lesser-known time in his career, and it provides critical context to what was often viewed as a provocative use of military images in the years following World War II.

During this period, Lüpertz as a young artist sought to distill abstract expressionism, pop art, and German motifs into a unique style that emphasized pure creative expression to become, as he described it, “a painter without responsibilities.” Highlights include the monumental 40-foot “Westwall [Siegfried Line]” (1968), which has never been shown in the U.S., “Donald Ducks Hochzeit (Donald Duck’s Wedding)” (1963) and “Deutsches Motiv III—dithyrambisch” (1972).

“A prolific painter, sculptor, poet and jazz musician, Lüpertz crafted a unique visual vocabulary out of an alchemy of influences, from the poetry of Friedrich Nietzche to the social and political history of his native Germany,” said Hirshhorn Director Melissa Chiu. “We are pleased to present these dynamic works, which offer one artist’s striking response to the world around him.”

“Markus Lüpertz: Threads of History” is presented in conjunction with a five-decade retrospective of the artist’s work at the Phillips Collection (May 27–Sept. 3). Together, the two exhibitions comprise Lüpertz’s first major survey.

A joint catalog offers new scholarship on Lüpertz’s development, including essays by the exhibition’s curators, Evelyn C. Hankins (Hirshhorn) and Dorothy Kosinski (Phillips), in addition to contributions from scholars Richard Shiff and Peter Weibel and a special greeting by Peter Wittig, Ambassador of the Republic of Germany to the United States.

As the national museum of contemporary art, the Hirshhorn showcases the ways artists respond to the world in which they live. Lüpertz is part of the Hirshhorn’s 2017–18 schedule of diverse contemporary artists whose work reflects global conversations in history, politics and culture, including Yayoi Kusama, Theaster Gates and Mark Bradford.

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