Simply titled and smartly curated, Galerie Crone's Deutsch hosts an impressive roster showcasing some of the biggest names contributing to contemporary German art in the last fifty years. Amid the August wasteland of summer group shows, this exhibition stands out as intellectually complex and visually compelling look at German iconography. It's no secret that Germany has a complicated history. That being said, German national representations are not only delicate but potentially problematic when artistic products are a visual manifestation of political and social climates.
However, with works that range from pre-WWII until 2011 the show is anything but didactic. Instead, varying mediums are positioned against each other to activate the questions at hand: what is German art and how do the artists negotiate and position themselves within the broader context of art, German and global history?
There are the occasional all-too-obvious politically overt stand-outs, as seen in Joseph Beuys' 1981 sculpture Nur Noch 2190 Tage bis zum Ende des Kapitalismus (Denkmaschine) [Only 2190 Days until the End of Capitalism (Think Machine)]. But the real success comes with the reappraisal of an artistic style when focused through a lens of national identity. Case in point: Bernd and Hilla Becher's photographs of architectural structures, Ohne Title (Silos), 1981-1986. When shown in Deutsch, the Bechers who are famous for their democratic representations and typological groupings are less associated with their placement in a photographic lineage and instead take on a deeper GDR significance. Others, in their lack of representational subject matter, have a cathartic abstraction that can be seen as a purging of historical frustration.
This is no historical recapitulation, instead a carefully articulated balance of what was and what is. Contemporary artists, such as Harald Haermann and Hannes Bend, are also incorporated into the show, giving way to the new wave of young German voices, carving out current philosophical and artistic ideas based on their history.
~Devon Caranicas, a writer living in Berlin.
(Images: Deutsch Installation View, 2011; Courtesy: Galerie Crone, Berlin and the artists)