De-Natured: German Art from Joseph Beuys to Martin Kippenberger

April 8, 2011 - July 24, 2011

Book cover in front of person's face

Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Hanne Darboven, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, and Martin Kippenberger. For these artists, representation, authenticity, and history are all fractured, problematic, and “de-natured.” Their artworks—sometimes surprising, often challenging—established the international relevance and resonance of contemporary German art. Drawn from a distinguished private collection and supplemented with pieces from the Ackland, the nearly 40 works in DE-NATURED present a complex and compelling introduction to the notable efflorescence of art in post-war Germany.

Rendering nondescript objects in his signature material of felt, Beuys addresses the profoundest questions of society and creativity. Richter’s astonishingly beautiful and assured works in oil, photography, print media and drawing, investigate the problems of representation and aesthetic experience. Darboven’s methodical pictorial counting and writing proves confoundingly persuasive in the face of apparent tedium and repetitiveness. The Bechers’ cool photographs inventorying industrial structures established an entire school of recent German photography exploiting similar “objective” effects (including Gursky, Ruff, and Struth). Polke’s seemingly random image combinations and technical experimentation, along with Kippenberger’s irreverent and self-referential drawing, introduce an anarchic expressivity into the mix.

Organized by Peter Nisbet, Chief Curator, Ackland Art Museum. Publication available.

De-Natured was made possible by James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, and by the William Hayes Ackland Trust.

Exhibition media sponsor: WUNC North Carolina Public Radio

Image Credit: Martin Kippenberger, German, 1953-1997. Untitled (The Mark), 1990, graphite and Letraset on hotel stationery, mounted on poster. James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach Collection, L2011.5.9. © Estate Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne.