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Entries in Neo-Expressionism (6)


Anselm Kiefer: Monumental and Confrontational

Anselm Kiefer - Everyone Stands Under His Own Dome of Heaven - 1970 - Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on joined paper - 15 3/4 x 18 7/8in. (40 x 47.9cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (click photo for larger image) Anselm Kiefer's powerful canvases were groundbreaking at a time when painting was considered all but dead as a medium. Kiefer (born 1945) is most known for his subject matter dealing with German history and myth, particularly as it relates to the Holocaust. These works forced his contemporaries to deal with Germany's past in an era when acknowledgment of Nazism was taboo. Kiefer incorporates heavy impasto and uncommon materials into his pieces, such as lead, glass shards, dried flowers, and strands of hay, many of which reference various aspects of history and myth, German and otherwise. He diverged from Minimalism and abstraction to develop new representational and symbolic languages.

The work featured here “re-imagines the now-miniscule figure of the artist in a green military coat in the midst of a vast, snow-dusted field.” It is part of a series of watercolors related to the photographs Kiefer staged in 1969, reenacting the Nazi salute.  Kiefer has said, "Each man has his own dome, his own perceptions, his own theories. There is no one God for all."


Neo-Expressionism: An Affirmation of the Redemptive Power of Art

Georg Baselitz - Man of Faith - 1983 - Oil on canvas - 97 1/2 x 78 in. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYMany artists have practiced and revived aspects of the original Expressionist movement, as it existed at its peak at the beginning of the twentieth century. 

The most famous return to Expressionism was inaugurated by Georg Baselitz (born 1938) who led a revival that dominated German art in the 1970s. By the 1980s, this resurgence had become part of an international return to the sensuousness of painting - and away from the stylistically cool, distant sparseness of Minimalism and Conceptualism. Baselitz was enormously influential in showing a generation of German artists how they might come to terms with issues of art and national identity in the wake of the Second World War.. Briefly trained in the officially sanctioned social realism of Communist East Berlin, he soon moved to West Berlin, and encountered abstract art. Ultimately, however, he was to reject both options. While others turned to Conceptual Art, Pop Art, and Arte Povera, Baselitz revived the German Expressionism that had been denounced by the Nazis, and returned the human figure to a central position in painting. The figures in his art often appear upside-down.

Baselitz has always been influential and controversial. "I begin with an idea, but as I work, the picture takes over. Then there is the struggle between the idea I preconceived... and the picture that fights for its own life.”

I’ll be teaching a single-session class on Neo-Expressionism THIS Thursday (11/9), at the Larchmont Temple. Click HERE to register.


Francesco Clemente: Idiosyncratic and Arresting Images

Francesco Clemente - Moon - 1980 - Gouache on twelve sheets of paper with fabric - 96 1/4 x 91 in. - Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY (click photo for larger image)Acting as a dark shaman of the post-modern era while reacting against the dominance of increasing abstraction in preceding generations, Italian artist Francesco Clemente (born 1952) helped reinvigorate painting by using recognizable human figures as his primary subject. In idiosyncratic and arresting images, he uses Neo-Expressionist techniques to represent late twentieth century people and their psychological conditions - fundamentally questioning what is real and what is of value to the human spirit.

By the 1980s, this resurgence had become part of an international return to the sensuousness of painting - and away from the stylistically cool, distant sparseness of Minimalism and Conceptualism.

"Collaboration is part of my work because the assumption of my work is that our identities are fragmented identities, that we're [each] not just one person but many persons.” - Francesco Clemente


Julian Schnabel

Julian Schnabel - Adieu - 1996 - Oil and resin on canvas - 96 x 96 in. - Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.Julian Schnabel (born 1951) was one of the artists who worked to restore painting to its pre-abstraction status. He and other of his contemporaries “balanced technical concerns with emotional resonance”. Contradicting the highly intellectualized movements of Minimalism and Conceptual Art—Schnabel’s art is filled (in some cases to excess) with both emotion and materials. He first became known for his paintings on velvet and for canvases whose surfaces were built up of shattered crockery and other found materials. He is one of the rare artists who enjoyed instant  international success with his work, in part because he emerged during a time when aggressive marketing and attention was being paid to the business of selling art. 

Schnabel's work frequently features religious imagery— particularly Catholic iconography and themes. Living in Texas with his family placed him close to the Mexican border, and he became very familiar with Mexican and Meso-American cultural and religious practices. These influences, along with references to pop culture, are reflected in his art.

"When you make art, people try to stop you from doing it, and everything's sort of designed to stop you from doing it. So the fact that it exists is a wonderful thing.” - Julian Schnabel


Eric Fischl: Neo-Expressionism’s Bad Boy

Erich Fischl - The Sheer Weight of History - 1982 - Oil on canvas - 60 x 60 in. (click photo for larger image)Like its predecessor (Expressionism) Neo-Expressionism was a broad and diverse movement. Dominating the art market during the early and mid-1980s, its practitioners were reacting against the remote and highly abstract artistic production of the 1970s—introducing such elements as recognizable objects and the human figure back into the artistic vocabulary. They did reject traditional standards of composition and design—and their work is characterized by a brittle emotional tone that reflected the urban life and values of the day. 

In the 1970s and ‘80s, Eric Fischl (born 1948) became particularly noted as Neo-Expressionism's “bad boy with his psychologically charged depictions of American suburbia”. Fischl’s mother suffered severe bouts of alcoholism and depression. These became a key influence on his work. Fischl was compelled to break through societal facades—focusing on issues of family dynamics, human vulnerability and a range of taboo subjects. He is also well-known as a premiere figurative painter.

Neo-Expressionism was the perfect vehicle for an artist exploring internal conflicts—and Fischl rendered them uncomfortably universal. "I vowed that I would never let the unspeakable also be unshowable. I would paint what could not be said.” - Eric Fischl