i was in düsseldorf doing studio visits again…

i’m going out on a limb and asserting that the kunstakademie in düsseldorf (founded 1762) is the most influential training ground for artists in the world.    the list of artists associated with the school — either as students, or as teachers is astonishing –  gerhard richter, joseph beuys, rosemarie trockel, bernd becher, paul klee, nam june paik, blinky palermo, yoshitomo nara, anselm kiefer, thomas ruff, thomas struth, andreas gursky, thomas demand, tony cragg, katharina fritsch, thomas schütte, sigmar polke, etc.   i’m just back from my second trip, where i’ve been working on a series of group and solo exhibitions.

what i’m finding in germany and düsseldof in particular is a knowledge of art and cultural history and understanding of how their work relates to precedent that i rarely see in young artists in the u.s.    i’m seeing technical confidence that facilitates thoughtful conceptual exploration.    i’m also seeing fantastic studio spaces that are subsidized by the city (?!) of düsseldorf.   as an american, it’s shocking to see a government supporting artists as economic development policy…

cornelius völker, who studied under richter at the kunstakademie, is one of the painters whose work i’m really into.   over and over he paints the same type of object.     each series becomes a practice.   the objects he focuses on are things he says “no one else would want to paint.”    here are two examples from a series of sinks:

his handling of paint seems so effortless — simultaneously loose and controlled.  this kind of painting takes years of practice to accomplish.  how delightful to see such a crass subject rendered so seductively…   but these aren’t  just pretty pictures.     first, because of their serial nature — the meditation upon an object — they raise the question of what a sink is.   think magritte and existentialism.   and you can’t make a plumbing picture without referring to duchamp’s urinal and the question “what is art?”    if you want to follow the duchamp path further, you’ll have to consider the continuing debate about the “replica” urinals that trade in the art market for substantial sums and concepts of “reproduction” and “authenticity” that are timely in the digital age.     why stop there?   consider freud…    think about janet leigh’s shower…     there’s a lot going on here.

a view of his studio…

another of volker’s series that i think is fantastic are his meerschweinchen – guinea pigs.    once past how extraordinarily well they’re painted, you find a critique of the history of portraiture, the legacy of  pop art and the role of kitsch in contemporary art.

a detail…

of this painting:

there’s a catalog of the guinea pigs published in connection with an exhibition at the kunsthalle göppingen.     you can get it on amazon, or we’ll have some available at the gallery.    you can see paintings by cornelius völker in person in exhibitions at our gallery in new york opening in november and san franicsco opening in december.

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