Most of what you see as freedom is de Kooning.
Gagosian London is pleased to present Farewell Bill, an exhibition of new paintings by Georg Baselitz.
Seeking to expand the scope of traditional representation in art, Baselitz has constantly revisited and reimagined his chosen subjects over time. In this new series, he co-opts figuration as a vehicle for expression in energized, intuitively painted self-portraits—a new approach in his persistent subversion of the painted subject. Marking a clear departure from the retrospective impulses of the Remix paintings of the past decade, these vibrant new works focus afresh on the affirmative act of painting.
Baselitz intentionally deprived himself of any overview of the works while in progress, rapidly painting each section of the canvas on the floor, then moving over to the next. Impressions of paint cans and footprints are traces of this process while each brushstroke records a decisive action. Titled with variations on the phrase Willem raucht nicht mehr (which translates literally as “Willem’s no longer smoking” and figuratively as “Willem’s no more” or “Farewell Willem”), these color-rich, instinctively painted self-portraits pay direct homage to the gestural figures of Willem de Kooning, whose primal paintings Woman I and Woman II Baselitz encountered as a student in 1958. Bursts of pure red, yellow, blue, and green echo de Kooning’s abstract paintings of the 1970s, five of which were presented alongside Baselitz’s early work in the pivotal 1981 exhibition A New Spirit in Painting at the Royal Academy in London.
Like de Kooning’s paintings of the period, Baselitz’s new works are characterized by a watercolor-like fluidity, achieved through the thinning of oil paints with turpentine and their swift, loose application. Riffs on his own likeness transcend representation, imparting sublime moments of intuition and sheer physicality. Consistent with his established formal vocabulary that works to disrupt the painted subject both visually and symbolically, he repeatedly portrays himself upside down, wearing a cap marked “ZERO” (the name of his paint supplier). Silhouettes are conveyed in the thin, intertwining lines of a reed brush, while explosive color fields reveal new painterly atmospheres, echoing the combative dimensions of de Kooning’s paintings. By charging his own figurative investigations with the raw exuberance of Abstract Expressionism, Baselitz reinvigorates the august tradition of self-portraiture with bright, impulsive energies.
Georg Baselitz: What if...
Richard Calvocoressi narrates a tour of an exhibition of new paintings by Georg Baselitz in San Francisco, describing the visual effect of these luminous compositions and explaining their relationship to earlier works by the artist.
Artist to Artist: Georg Baselitz and Zeng Fanzhi
On the occasion of Georg Baselitz: Years later at Gagosian, Hong Kong, Zeng Fanzhi composed a written foreword for the exhibition’s catalogue and a video message to the German painter. Baselitz wrote a letter of thanks to the Chinese artist for his insightful thoughts.
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Richard Calvocoressi writes on the painter’s latest bodies of work, detailing the techniques employed and their historical precedents.
Gagosian Quarterly Summer 2020
The Summer 2020 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring Joan Jonas’s Mirror Piece 1 (1969) on its cover.
On the occasion of a career-spanning exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, Richard Calvocoressi tracks the evolution of Georg Baselitz’s development from his early education in East Germany to his revelatory trip to Florence, in 1965, and beyond.
Visions of the Self: Jenny Saville on Rembrandt
Jenny Saville reveals the process behind her new self-portrait, painted in response to Rembrandt’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with Two Circles.