Georg Baselitz / Years Later

Gagosian, Hong Kong

Thu 21 May 2020 to Sat 8 Aug 2020

An early pioneer of the Neo-Expressionist movement that had its origins in postwar Germany, Baselitz combines a vigorous and direct approach to art making with a sensitivity to art historical lineages. He counts Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston among his key influences, and is known for his uncompromising approach and critical stance. In 1969, he began to compose his images upside down to slow the processes of making, looking, and comprehending. Over the past fifty years, often referring to and reinterpreting his own body of work, he has further augmented his visual language with a range of formal and historical allusions yet has consistently returned to the human figure as his central motif.

Georg Baselitz – Da sind zwei Figuren im alten Stil (That’s two figures in the old style)
2019, Oil and painter’s gold varnish on canvas; 300 x 212 cm
© Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian.

This exhibition is focused on a set of thirteen large oil paintings that Baselitz made using a “contact-printing” technique related to the one applied in his series, What if… (2019), which was exhibited at Gagosian San Francisco earlier this year. To create each new black-and-gold painting he uses a stencil to render inverted figures on blank canvas, painting just the panel’s background to generate bold negative silhouettes. Against this ground he presses a black canvas, lifting this second support to produce an image distinguished by a slightly softer look than those made more directly. The hybrid result not only stresses medium over image, but is also distinguished by an element of unpredictability that bespeaks freedom and vitality. In a single painting in pink, the figures are rendered without a stencil as positive images.

Georg Baselitz – Madame Demoisielle weit weg von der Küste (Madame Demoiselle a long way from the coast) – 2019, Oil on canvas, 302 x 427 cm
© Georg Baselitz. Photo: Jochen Littkemann. Courtesy Gagosian.

With part of their material substance surrendered to the transfer technique, the works in Years later incorporate a palpable sense of organic change and variation; they juxtapose traces of Baselitz’s haptic intervention with marks derived specifically from the contact-printing process. This lends their surfaces a specific tension, while the play of subtle similarities and differences from one panel to the next adds a dynamic rhythm to the series as a whole—a nod to the idea of the human frame in motion. As one image begets another, the figures become less and less distinct and gradually merge with their backgrounds, dissolving subject into context, humanity into reality at large. In these paintings, the dark, chaotic nature of this reality finds its full expression.

Installation view – © Georg Baselitz. Photo: Martin Wong

A fully illustrated catalogue with a foreword by Zeng Fanzhi and an essay by Lu Mingjun will accompany the exhibition.

A Note to the visitors:
The gallery will reopen in compliance with the Hong Kong government’s health guidelines regarding social distancing and visitor and staff protection.