Solo stand of Günther Förg, Hauser & Wirth at the West Bund

Hauser & Wirth is delighted to return to the West Bund Art & Design this year, with a solo presentation by Günther Förg (1952 – 2013), one of the most important German artists of the post-war generation. Born in Füssen, Germany, Förg was a prolific painter, sculptor, graphic designer, and photographer whose bold conceptual works subsumed and critiqued modernist tropes. Throughout his life, Förg tirelessly critiqued 20th-century intellectualism, crafting deft and witty responses to Kazimir Malevich’s suprematism, Paul Klee’s figuration, Blinky Palermo’s formal abstraction, and the expressionism of Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, among other artists he admired. In doing so, Förg left behind a conceptual revision of art history through work that eschews fixed categorizations.

Theme ‘See the Moon in color,’ Organized by Michael Neff from the Günther Förg estate and longtime assistant to the artist, the presentation includes over 30 works and examines the breadth of Förg’s expression. Using the language of abstraction in his painting practice, Förg appropriated tropes borrowed from modern art and architecture in relentless transformations of color, form and composition, mimicking or reacting against gestures or image-making principles that he would push to limits or extremes and then employ again.

Günther Förg’s career began in the early 1970s as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he studied from 1973 to 1979. Witnessing the paintings of Cy Twombly motivated Förg to produce a new paint every week over a period of three years.

Since the 1980s, Förg began making The Lead Paintings, in which geometric abstractions were made with acrylic paint on sheets of lead, wrapped or wrapped around a wooden panel or frame. Förg approached color intuitively, using minimal and elemental compositional devices to reduce painting to its pure essence. The nature of lead was of particular interest to the artist: “I really like the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness… I like reacting to things; with normal canvas you often have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With metals, you already have something – its scratches, its scuffs. In these large-scale yet minimal works, Förg produced a visual homage to color field painting, referencing Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, while allowing the material to become his vehicle of expression.

Günther Förg

In the late 1990s and 2000s, Förg’s work moved away from the monochromatic to reveal an interest in color and form. In the Grid Paintings – a series that Förg began in 2005 – the grid emerges from the brushstroke itself. Expressive and gestural, the various colors include the loose, irregular hatching of Förg’s wobbly lines that suggest architectural allusions – a building, a window, a landscape, as well as the influence of Newman’s Zip Paintings. Towards the end of his career, the Grid Paintings command a similar freedom of form and sensuality, incorporating a brighter palette and a more expressive hand.

A series of miniature paintings were created between 2003 and 2007, which could be described as “miniatures” of his already existing large-scale paintings. This series occurred in/after a period when Förg was looking for new paths and reconsidering his artistic practice since 2000. Self-reflection is an essential part of miniature paintings. By transforming existing large-scale paintings into a small-scale work on wood, Förg converted conventional artistic procedures that begin with the smallest draft or model.

From 2007 to 2009, Förg’s Spot Paintings represent an ultimate return to expressive painting, indicating a kind of completion – a full circle towards painting as a synthesis of experimentation, rooted in art history. In the artist’s own words, “I think painting is a resilient practice; if you look through the history of painting, it doesn’t change that much and we still see it in the present. It’s still now.

Günther Förg

Förg’s 2009 series of ink drawings, “mainly landscapes”, uses expressive and colorful marks to reference nature, uniting the concern of his painterly drawings with the liveliness of his Aller Retour series.

This is Förg’s second solo presentation in Asia after Taipei Dangdai in 2019. Working with the estate of Günther Förg, the gallery‘s goal is to present Förg’s contributions to a wider audience and new generations. at the International scale. Hauser & Wirth London will present a solo exhibition by Förg in early 2023.

About the artist

Günther Förg
Günther Förg

Günther Förg’s career began in the early 1970s at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich (1973-1979), where he studied under Karl Fred Dahmen, one of the most important and influential figures in informal art. Supplementing his understanding of gestural abstraction, Förg attended exhibitions at the Heiner Friedrich Gallery in Munich, which played a vital role in the development of the West German art scene. The gallery has featured a host of international artists, including Robert Ryman, Sol LeWitt, Blinky Palermo and Cy Twombly, the latter two of whom Förg has cited as seminal influences. Förg was included in his first group exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart, in 1981, presented alongside contemporaries Martin Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen, whose common artistic approach demonstrated a subversive reframing and critical understanding of modernist tropes. Rejecting formal membership, Förg embarked on what would become a lifelong commitment to the conceptual and serial-matic advancement of art.

Förg’s work is held in numerous public collections, including the Broad Contemporary Art Museum, Santa Monica CA; Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, AT; Fotomuseum Winterthur, CH; Kunstmuseum Basel, CH; Contemporary Art Museum Castello di Rivoli, Turin, IT; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, ES; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, DE; Museum of Modern Art, New York NY; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA San Francisco; SMAK the Municipal Museum of Contemporary Art, Ghent, BE; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Tate, London, UK; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis IL; among others. Recent major solo exhibitions include the traveling exhibition ‘A Fragile Beauty’ at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam NL and the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas TX (2018), and ‘Günther Förg. Works from 1986 – 2007’ at Hauser & Wirth New York (2019) and ‘Günther Förg. bronze surface’ at Hauser & Wirth Zurich (2020).

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