After his studies of painting in Dresden from 1952 to 1957 and the three years that followed as a master-class student at the Academy, Richter emigrated to the Federal Republic of Germany. From 1961 to 1963 he studied under Karl Otto Götz at the Duesseldorf Academy of Arts. It is there that he became friends with Sigmar Polke, Blinky Palermo and Konrad Lueg – who was later known as the art dealer Konrad Fischer – , with whom he performed the “Demonstration in favour of capitalist realism” as a German version of Pop Art in 1963. In 1962, influenced by Giacometti and Dubuffet, he started with representational paintings based on photographs. This was the result of a changed view on art, which, according to Richter, “has nothing to do with painting, composition or colour”. His first solo exhibitions took place in 1964 at the galleries of Heiner Friedrich in Munich and Alfred Schmela in Duesseldorf. In 1967 Richter became guest lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg and in 1971 he was offered a chair at the Academy of Arts in Duesseldorf, which he held until 1996. Further visiting professorships from the College of Art in Halifax, Canada, in 1978 and the Städelschule in Frankfurt in 1988 followed. In his alpine and urban paintings of the end of the 1960s, the photographic pattern is reflected in thickly applied spots of colour. With his colour field series from 1971 to 1974, in which the artist he used the four primary colours faceted and in arbitrary combinations as well as his monochrome grey paintings of 1972-1975, Richter made decisive painterly components his subject. In 1976 Richter started to do abstract pictures with coloured streaks, but nevertheless returned to representationalism again and again and turned the alternation between techniques of representation and stylistic incongruity into a principle. In 1997 his “Atlas” – a systematic collection of photographs and painted sketches – was exhibited a the documenta X in Kassel. Today Gerhard Richter is regarded as one of the internationally best known and most successful contemporary artists, whose works are appreciated by a wide audience on numerous exhibitions.
Vija Celmins was born in Riga, Latvia in 1938. Celmins immigrated to the United States with her family when she was ten years old, settling in Indiana. She received a BFA from the John Herron Institute in Indianapolis, and later earned her MFA in painting from the University of California, Los Angeles. Celmins received international attention early on for her renditions of natural scenes—often copied from photographs that lack a point of reference, horizon, or discernable depth of field. Armed with a nuanced palette of blacks and grays, Celmins renders these limitless space—seascapes, night skies, and the barren desert floor—with an uncanny accuracy, working for months on a single image. Celmins has a highly attuned sense for organic detail and the elegance of imperfection. Her most recent series of works take as their subject delicate spider webs. In works like “Web #2,” Celmins renders the translucent quality of the web, lending the image a sense of discovery and wonder. A master of several mediums, including oil painting, charcoal, and multiple printmaking processes, Celmins matches a tangible sense of space with sensuous detail in each work. Vija Celmins received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1996 and a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in 1997. Retrospectives of her work have traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. In 2002, a retrospective of Celmins’ prints was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Celmins currently resides in New York and California.
In 1996 Mueck transitioned to fine art, collaborating with his mother-in-law, Paula Rego, to produce small figures as part of a tableau she was showing at the Hayward Gallery. Rego introduced him to Charles Saatchi who was immediately impressed and started to collect and commission work. This led to the piece which made Mueck’s name, Dead Dad, being included in the Sensation show at the Royal Academy the following year. Dead Dad is a rather haunting silicone and mixed media sculpture of the corpse of Mueck’s father reduced to about two thirds of its natural scale. It is the only work of Mueck’s that uses his own hair for the finished product.
Mueck’s sculptures faithfully reproduce the minute detail of the human body, but play with scale to produce disconcertingly jarring visual images. His five metre high sculpture Boy 1999 was a feature in the Millennium Dome and later exhibited in the Venice Biennale.
Shortly before her death, Eva Hesse described her subject as ‘the total absurdity of life’. Indeed, one of the chief characteristics of her work is a vein of subtle humour that runs from the self-deprecating, abject quality of her early self-portraits to the quirky fetishism and playful repetitions of her later sculpture. Yet in other ways her achievement could not be more serious. Working in what was then very much a man’s world, she pursued her ambition to become a great artist with single-minded determination. Hesse readily absorbed the influences of Surrealism, Conceptualism and Minimalism, always filtering them though her own distinctive sensibility to produce a unique and highly individualistic body of work.
She continually experimented with new processes and materials, which included the use of string, resin and latex, in order to push the boundaries of art, moving beyond definitions of figuration or abstraction. Combining both rigidity and pliability, the machine-made and the hand-crafted, hard geometric abstraction and soft organic curves, her work refuses to be categorised. As Hesse herself commented: ‘The drawings could be called paintings legitimately, and a lot of my sculpture could be called paintings, and a lot of it could be called nothing – a thing or any object or any new word that you want to give it.’
In a mature career spanning just ten years, Hesse created a considerable legacy of work that was respected as much by fellow artists and critics during her lifetime, as it continues to influence artists to this day. Sadly, many of the experimental materials that she used subsequently turned out to be very fragile. The works assembled for this exhibition include her early drawings and paintings, the painted reliefs, and many of the astonishing sculptures for which she is best known. A number of these have never been seen in the UK, allowing visitors a unique opportunity to explore the work of one of the most important sculptors of the late twentieth century.
Hesse Eva Hesse was born in Germany in 1936. She and her sister escaped Nazi persecution by fleeing on a children’s train and were later reunited with their parents and moved to New York. She studied painting and drawing at Cooper Union and Yale University.