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Art after the Shoah + Enter at your own risk + 90th birthday

ART AFTER THE SHOAH | LURIE AND VOSTELL IN THE HAAG | On the flat car of a freight train | by Georg Imdahl | Frankfurter Allgemeine on 27.03.2022 | The exhibition "Art after Auschwitz" brings together works by Boris Lurie and Wolf Vostell for the first time - and shows that the work of the artist friends still casts doubt on all morals.

A line of visitors has formed at the entrance to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, as the tradition-rich Gemeentemuseum has been calling itself for some time now, with the posters and illustrations by the Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha from the fin de siècle period as the main attraction. His exhibition is also overcrowded. But another exhibition in the building is also well attended, and offers the opposite of ornamental, playful beauty: "Boris Lurie & Wolf Vostell - Art after Auschwitz.

These are pictures, collages and objects that ask a lot of the audience, they depict violence and pornography, seduce to a voyeurism that they at the same time brusquely reject and unmask as perverse, are an expression of an enlightened obsession that cuts off the way to a reconciliatory purification. One neither wants to look nor to look away. Thus, the disturbing works leave their viewers, among them many young people, in a state of behavior that is palpable.

Lurie and Vostell, both of Jewish origin, had been linked by a long friendship since the early sixties; the double exhibition brings them together for the first time with letters and photographs, but above all with their works, which complement each other in terms of content and form; in both oeuvres, political collage, as it is known from the Weimar Republic by Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann, and John Heartfield, is radicalized once again. Those who saw Lurie's retrospective at the Jewish Museum in Berlin in 2016 will not have forgotten the shock value of these images-namely, the works in which Lurie forces together photographs of piled-up corpses from liberated concentration camps with stripped women in lascivious poses from erotic magazines, in one case also adding a company logo for hair shampoo. You can't finish these works; their force hits you even when you're prepared for it.

The "broken femininity“

In 1962 Lurie gave a macabre title to a photograph of murdered people on the flatcar of a freight train: "Flatcar, Assemblage, 1945 by Adolf Hitler. In Riga in the winter of 1941, Lurie had witnessed how the Wehrmacht had executed his mother, one of his two sisters, his grandmother, and his ardent childhood sweetheart Lyuba in mass shootings in the Rumbula forest. He then survived imprisonment with his father in the Lenta and Salaspils labor camps (both near Riga) and the Stutthof and Buchenwald concentration camps. With his art, the artist, born in Leningrad in 1924, after emigrating to New York in 1946, aimed head-on at Western society, its art business, its repression and self-numbing through consumption.

More extensively than in Berlin, the exhibition of Lurie's work in The Hague shows pictures of women from the 1950s who are gagged, deformed, if not even dismembered in the picture - they were created at the same time as Willem de Kooning's controversial "Women," though not in an admired "Grand Style," but stylistically erratic, sometimes linear, then painterly accentuated, sometimes like Pop Art avant la lettre or oriented on Francis Bacon. In a courageous catalog essay, art historian Katharina Sykora justifies this "broken femininity" as a "counter-image of a conventional aesthetic of beauty" that is transformed into "disruptive factors of a calmed, saturated, post-war patriarchal society that lulls itself into security and power." Since, above all, photographs from magazines did not circulate freely at the time (as they do on the Internet today), Lurie challenged not only the audience, but also the institutions that should have shown such things.

Joseph Beuys is underestimated

Lurie had met Wolf Vostell in 1964 at his happening "You" on Long Island, where smoke bombs were set off and gas masks distributed, an action that gave the artist Al Hansen the feeling that he had been "invited to visit a concentration camp." Born in Leverkusen in 1932, Vostell had fled with his parents to the Sudetenland in 1939 before the family returned to the Rhineland after the war. With his temple curls, the artist openly displayed his Jewish origins, provoking and probably also offending. Compared to Joseph Beuys, his work is still underestimated today. His works hold their own surprisingly well alongside those of Lurie.

Exhibited for the first time is an artist's book called "No" that has surfaced in the estate, with which Vostell undoubtedly reacted to Lurie's maxim of his "No!art". In a kaleidoscope that is hard to bear, Vostell fans out images of a global brutality whose excesses can indiscriminately affect anyone, including a larger group of unclothed women facing their murder in Treblinka. Vostell's appeal against colonialism, militarism, racism is no less relevant today than it was when he created it. His artistic furor was also directed against television, a mass medium that was still relatively new at the time; he smeared TV sets with lumps of concrete that lay like ulcers on the screen, thus giving Fluxus art a political thrust and polemicizing against a flattening industry of consciousness.

Poster art has an effect

In large formats, Vostell takes up scandals of the Bundeswehr (in which young recruits are killed by breeding measures of their superiors) and marks them with the flag colors black, red, gold, and white to assert a continuity from the German Reich to the Federal Republic. In 1970, in an expansive environment, Vostell even builds a gloomy concentration camp lined with cutlery, which sparkles demonically and is meant to be entered by visitors to the exhibition. In a memorable contemporary historical punchline, Vostell then moved into quarters in West Berlin in 1984 in, of all places, the former studio of Nazi sculptor Arno Breker.

The exhibition affirms moral imperatives with artistic images that radically cast doubt on all morality. In it, there is no taboo of depiction, as Claude Lanzmann was to impose on himself in his work of the century "Shoah" from 1985. In this nine-hour film epic, the French director interviewed survivors about their memories, but denied himself the use of contemporary historical footage. In contrast, the show of works by the artist friends long after their deaths - Lurie died in 2008, Vostell already in 1998 - demonstrates that art with historical depth of field can also appear strikingly in order to achieve an effect.

Boris Lurie & Wolf Vostell - Art after Auschwitz. The Hague Art Museum; through May 29. Subsequently at Kunsthaus Dahlem, Berlin, Ludwig Forum Koblenz, and Ludwig Museum Budapest. The catalog will be published in April by Hatje Cantz Verlag.

READERS' OPINIONS | Edelbert Hackenberg | 03/29/2022 | When all barriers fall - merciless marketing of the mass murder of the Jews. What would the murdered people say if they saw how their photos, forced by the NAZI's in humiliating poses, are presented to the public today, supplemented with supposed art?

Quelle: F.A.Z. https://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/kunst-und-architektur/lurie-und-vorstell-in-der-ausstellung-kunst-nach-auschwitz-17913814.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2

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Wolf Vostell and Boris Lurie at Kunsthaus Dahlem: Enter at your own risk | Violence and Consumption: A Berlin exhibition shows the angry reappraisal of the Shoah by artist friends Wolf Vostell and Boris Lurie. | By Gunda Bartels | Tagesspiegel, Berlin on 26.07.2022 | Metallic crunching, spicy rustling? How to describe the glaring sounds that arise when one walks through Wolf Vostell's installation "Thermo-Electronic Chewing Gum". Not to mention the chewing gum, the smacking sounds of which are transmitted to the loudspeaker of a suitcase to be taken along by means of a micro-sensor stuck to the cheek.

The room is gloomy, outside hangs a sign "Enter at your own risk." Barbed wire fences to the left and right evoke concentration camp associations. The creepy feeling of walking on 13,000 spoons and forks is countered by the "Juici Fruit" rubber, which functions as a symbol of an all-trivializing capitalist way of life. Yes, it is analogies of the seventies that the artist works with here. Nevertheless, the installation has lost absolutely nothing of its brazen force. On the contrary, the images of violence and death seem tragically topical, even if the war in Ukraine provides others on a daily basis.

Shock therapy, but artistic

It is an artistic shock therapy that the Kunsthaus Dahlem prescribes to visitors in the exhibition "Art after the Shoah. Wolf Vostell in Dialogue with Boris Luri"", prescribes to the visitors, who are also warned at the entrance against "disturbing images". Namely, shots of half-starved concentration camp prisoners and corpses, which the artist friends Vostell and Lurie repeatedly weave into their furious reappraisal of the Holocaust.

Wolf Vostell, born in 1932 and co-founder of the Fluxus movement, is one of the most important German artists of the 20th century. Boris Lurie was born in Leningrad in 1924, grew up in Riga, and as a Jew experienced the Nazi machinery of extermination firsthand.

The women in his family were murdered, his father and he were deported to a concentration camp and liberated in 1945. Lurie emigrated to New York, where he founded the NO!art movement in 1959 and lived as an artist and author until his death in 2008.

Against the established art business, against the complacency of the consumer society, and above all: against oblivion. With these thrusts, Lurie and Vostell are brothers in spirit. With his sculptures, object boxes, paintings, collages, and happenings, Vostell acted throughout his life as a thorn in the flesh of the Federal Republic. Legendary is the storm of indignation that arose in Berlin in 1987 against his Cadillacs set in concrete on Rathenauplatz.

When Vostell and Lurie met at a happening in 1964, there was an immediate spark. And a fruitful artistic exchange, also documented in 94 letters, began. This is told by Dorothea Schöne, the director of the Kunsthaus Dahlem. Schöne also initiated the exhibition as a tribute in the run-up to the 90th birthday of Vostell, who died in 1998, which will be celebrated in October.

The fact that swastikas and Jewish stars, which Boris Lurie aggressively stages in his collages and objects, are emblazoned here, of all places, in the former studio building of the Nazi sculptor Arno Breker as a kind of anti-propaganda of the destructive Nazi ideology, adds a double bottom to the impressive show.

The very fact that the city of Berlin transferred Wolf Vostell's high hall, now used as a café, as a studio for life in 1984 resembles a kind of exorcism. The range of his sculptural works and paintings now on view at the former site of their creation has the same effect.

Concrete pillar collapses onto a tangle of bodies

The seven-meter triptych "Shoah 1492 - 1945," dedicated at once to Jews once expelled from Spain and to those murdered by the Nazi regime, is the central eye-catcher. Vostell, who also lived in Spain, in Malpartida de Cáceres, has a concrete pillar collapse onto an abstract tangle of bodies in the 1997 painting. Despite the force of symbolism, colors and forms, the work is quite clearly reminiscent of Picasso. Vostell's objects, in which the pioneer of video art also incorporated televisions, look much more independent.

The limited half-life of the technology, however, proves to be a conservation challenge, as Dorothea Schöne says. The object boxes with the mini-televisions, which originally linked current news with images of the New Reich Chancellery or a bombed-out city as a continuum of human violence, have lost a dimension because the things no longer run. The pictures "Stalingrad" and "May 8, 1945," which work with overpaintings of newspaper clippings, prove to be more timeless.

In contrast to his colleague Vostell, Boris Lurie does not work with abstractions, but rather combines photographs of pin-up girls from the sixties with concentration camp images in his collages. In both photographs, which degrade people to objects, inhuman systems manifest themselves according to his conviction. That they are not history but persist is a conviction he shares with Wolf Vostell.

Except that Lurie, a Jew, is outraged at the trivialization of the Shoah with the hot heart of the afflicted. Including the biting joke that makes him write "From a happening, 1945 - by Adolf Hitler" under the picture of a half-naked, rattle-thin concentration camp prisoner. That's how crass it looks when two artists refuse to simply return to business as usual after the civilizational rupture of murdering millions.

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An exhibition of Wolf Vostell's work on the occasion of his 90th birthday at Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen | 16.09.2022 - 05.2023 | "Human rights are works of art! Stroking the head of a child is just as much a work of art as 3 strokes on paper!" Wolf Vostell handwrote this sentence on his work "Fluxus Zug" (1982), which is currently on view at Museum Morsbroich in Leverkusen. Like hardly any other artist of his time, Wolf Vostell (1932-1998) reflected and reacted in his multi-layered work abruptly to current world events, addressed social grievances and campaigned against the suppression and forgetting of war. The focus of his artistic work was always the human being and his ability to act consciously.

"Every human being is a work of art," was Vostell's pointed response to the Beuysian statement "Every human being is an artist." With the view of today and in view of the current war events, a still topical call to reflective action to all of us.

On October 14 of this year, Vostell would have turned ninety. Alongside Rosemarie Trockel and Thomas Grünfeld, he is one of the most important artists born in Leverkusen. To mark the occasion, Museum Morsbroich is dedicating a concentrated show of works from the museum's collection to him as part of the "22/23: spielzeit" project. They reflect the complexity of his oeuvre and make tangible the intensity with which, since the late 1950s, Vostell has critically addressed socially relevant issues and the substantially future-threatening reality of war in a wide variety of media such as happenings, environments, and object assemblages.

For him, the term "décollage" (French for detaching, separating) became the epitome of his artistic work. The act of decollaging is not only to be understood as a mere physical act of tearing off (posters), but also as a process of uncovering hidden levels of meaning and mental layers. The active participation of the human being is always a prerequisite and an essential component of his art.

In addition to early dé-coll/ages, drawings, object boxes, multiples, and editions, among others, which refer to Vostell's pioneering work for action art and the happening, the Museum Morsbroich will continue to show large parts of his cinematic oeuvre in monthly rotation until May 2023 (see film program). On view in the museum's film chamber are, among other things, video works on Vostell's actions and environments as well as early, artistic décoll/age video films (1963-71) as well as Vostell's first film Sun in your head (1963), which relates the principle of dé-coll/age to the form of montage and is considered the first artistic work ever to use recorded moving images from television.

With the show of works on the occasion of its 90th birthday, the Museum Morsbroich is at the same time linking up with its own exhibition history: Already in the late 1960s, the museum presented Vostell in two group exhibitions (13 German Painters, 1968; Spaces and Environments, 1969), followed in 1992 by a comprehensive exhibition of his paintings (Vostell. The Painterly Work), and in 2010 by the large survey show of his happenings (The Theater is on the Street. The Happenings of Wolf Vostell).

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