Franz Erhard Walther's work occupies a unique position in the art of the second half of the 20th century. Using everyday materials such as paper, cotton fabrics and steel, he creates simple geometric forms that recall Minimal artworks. Walther's sculptures, however, exist in a variety of 'work states' (Werkzustände) – open or closed, resting or in use. In so-called 'work actions' (Werkhandlungen), which are performed by a designated number of people, the objects are activated by carrying out a set course of actions. Basic physical movements and actions such as standing, walking, stacking or folding thereby become an integral component of the work.
The objects therefore have a dual nature: they serve as artworks to be viewed and at the same time they are elements within interactive fields of action. In this way, Franz Erhard Walther challenges conventional artistic categories and proposes an "other concept of the work (of art)" (Walther). This innovative approach brought him international recognition early in his career: in 1969 Walther took part in a landmark group show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, and went on to participate in four consecutive editions of the documenta in Kassel during the 1970s and 80s.
Hamburg was Franz Erhard Walther's adopted home for several decades, and his more than 34 years of teaching at the Hochschule für bildende Künste have had a significant and lasting impact on the city's art and artists. His students at the HfbK included such prominent artists as John Bock, Rebecca Horn, Martin Kippenberger, Jonathan Meese and Santiago Serra. The Hamburger Kunsthalle took a keen interest in Franz Erhard Walther's practice from a very early stage, and was therefore in a position to acquire a number of major works from the 1960s and 70s. In the exhibition, these will be shown alongside drawings, photographs and films that serve to illustrate the historical and conceptual context within which the sculptural objects were created.
Since the 1960s Franz Erhard Walther's work has been exhibited widely and internationally. The current exhibition is the latest stage in an ongoing presentation of Walther's art at the Hamburger Kunsthalle that began precisely 30 years ago. In addition to the first works by the artist that were acquired for the museum collection, the display includes pieces that have never been exhibited before. The process-oriented exhibition format clearly shows that Walther's artistic investigations have lost none of their relevance or impact.
Franz Erhard Walther will alter the presentation twice over the course of the exhibition, in order to demonstrate the different Werkzustände. These events will be open to the public and you are welcome to attend.