WIELS is presenting the first major survey exhibition in Belgium of German artist Thomas Bayrle, a pioneer of Pop, Seriality and Media Art. As such, WIELS continues its alternative reading of art history by foregrounding often overlooked artists whose work shift our understanding of major changes in the history of art and ideas.
Bayrle has worked as an artist and a graphic designer since the mid 1960s, inventing a unique visual language through the production of collages, paintings, sculptures, films and books. In the process, he built an important body of work that is surprisingly consistent, obsessive even, combining allegiances to Pop, Conceptual and Op art alike with wry humor. Despite this, and indeed despite his far-reaching influence on a whole new generation of artists through his tenure as professor at the renowned Städelschule in Frankfurt between 1975 and 2002, he remains relatively little known to the general public.
Like his late Frankfurt artist contemporaries Peter Roehr and Charlotte Posenenske, Bayrle created works in the mid 1960s based on the serial repetition of the same pattern, formal compositions indebted to the seriality of the then-emerging Minimal Art movement. Steeped in many of the ideas of the Frankfurt School, with which it shares geographic proximity, Bayrle's work has all along retained the critical engagement that drove his earliest experiments. His interest in mass culture and incorporation, in the midst of the Cold War, of the symbols of the capitalist and communist societies then charting their antagonistic course on either side of the Wall pervades his oeuvre.
The retrospective exhibition of Bayrle at WIELS will span the artist's entire carreer, from his first painted kinetic machines to his most recent engine installations, the latter recently featured at dOCUMENTA (13). The show will eschew showing work along chronological lines; rather, it will put forward the variety of, at times, contradictory themes in the artist's work, including consumerism and consumer society, political propaganda, sexuality, and religion.
Curated by Devrim Bayar