THE HUMAN CONDITION
The selection was based on the artists’ thematization of mankind, its lifestyles and living environments. This broad theme encompasses heterogeneous positions taken by artists from various generations. All works are united by their representationalism, specifically their orientation towards people and objects from everyday life. The exhibition also comprises a broad spectrum of artistic media, from paintings, sculptures, and drawings to watercolours, prints, and photographs.
The title of the exhibition pays homage to the eponymous book by Hannah Arendt, published in 1958, in which she sets out the basic conditions of human coexistence in the form of ‘labour, work, and action’, and which has once again gained new topicality in the face of current global upheavals. The exhibition demonstrates how artists react to such changes with their own unique sensorium, which comprises both private and public life.
The paintings by the Latvian artist Janis Avotins (*1981) and his Munich-based, Romanian colleague Ioan Grosu (*1985) thus suggest a contemporary sense of loneliness and vulnerability in a climate of urban anonymity. In his series of Untitled (Heads) inspired by teenager drawings, Donald Baechler (*1956) makes reference to adolescent patterns of perception in adults. The Lexikonzeichnungen of Katharina Fritsch (*1956), which she appropriated from an illustrated dictionary from the 1930s, oscillate between comics and illustration. Isolated from their explanatory context, the fairy-tale motifs evoke a sense of disconcertment, as though the artist were striving to provide residents of a faraway galaxy with clues to understanding the human world. Konrad Klapheck’s work focuses on concrete human relationships by – entirely in the spirit of Freudian sublimation – concealing erotic metaphors behind cool, ostensibly objective imagery. Such relationships are radically broken open in the large-format drawings by Andreas Schmitten (*1980), who is also represented with the sculpture Festung. In their aloofly reserved form of presentation clearly related to the works of Klapheck, Schmitten’s images of man appear at first glance unsettling, but ultimately reconcile through their subtle humour.
Socio-political implications can also be found in the allegorical works of Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (active from 1984 to 2017), as well as in the works of Jörg Immendorf (1945–2007) and Thomas Schütte (*1954), the utopian visions of Pavel Pepperstein (*1966) and the prints of Kelvin López (*1976) subsumed under the collective title of This is Your House, Fidel. The latter’s images of Cuban houses, which had been abandoned by their owners when they fled the country and subsequently transformed into retirement homes or children’s hospitals, are, in turn, closely related to the documentary photographic works of Joseph Rodriguez (*1951). Having become known for his series Spanish Harlem: El Barrio in the’80s, which shed light on the Latino culture in New York’s oldest neighbourhood, Rodriguez has been preoccupied with the everyday life of the socially marginalised since the 1980s.
The exhibition thus offers a tour through heterogeneous living environments, which begins in the 1950s and extends into our immediate present. In the process, a surprising array of common denominators between the different artists become apparent on various levels.