Minimalism Germany 1960s

March 12th — May 30th 2010
Mercedes-Benz Contemporary

This exhibition shows important trends in 1960s abstract art in Germany from the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection: Constructivism, Zero, Minimal Art, Concept und Seriality. Starting from predecessors in the 1950s—such as Josef Albers, Norbert Kricke, Herbert Zangs, Siegfried Cremer—the show looks at developments in abstract art in the cities of Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Krefeld, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich, and also considers neighbouring Swiss approaches. We are presenting about 60 works by 25 artists from the period 1954 to 1974.

One of the key areas of the Mercedes-Benz Art Collection is 20th century abstract art, from the Stuttgart circle around Adolf Hölzel in 1910 via Bauhaus, Constructivism, Concrete Art, Minimalism, conceptual tendencies, Neo Geo to the most recent contemporary art. Groups of works by German artists have been acquired on this basis over the last ten years, representing pioneering abstract trends in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the 1960s in Germany, a new kind of Minimalism developed that was initially largely independent from the developments in America at the time. This German Minimalism was in many cases stimulated by, but also in conflict with, Concrete Art and the European Zero avant-garde, which drew attention to itself from 1957 on, starting in Düsseldorf, with unusually staged exhibitions and spectacular projects for public space. The steles, cubes, and picture objects produced by the Zero artists, which lay in the space or stood in front of the wall, represent a significant new step for German art in terms of quality around 1959/60.

The Düsseldorf Kunstakademie played an important role in the transition to a specifically German Minimalism from 1962 until around 1970. The work of Joseph Beuys as a teacher provided many of his students with a basis for examining minimalized sculpture.

As a student of Karl Otto Götz in Düsseldorf, the young Franz Erhard Walther developed his first proto-Minimalist objects starting in 1962, followed in 1964/65 by Imi Knoebel, Imi Giese, and Blinky Palermo, students with Beuys in Düsseldorf. At the same time, Hanne Darboven in Hamburg, a student of the Zero artist Almir Mavignier, Posenenske in Offenbach (she studied with Willi Baumeister in Stuttgart 1951/52), and—outside academic contexts—Peter Roehr in Frankfurt conceived their first attempts at Minimalist works. In 1966, Erwin Heerich began work on his plans drawn on lined paper and his cardboard sculptures. In Berlin, Eckhard Schene and Peter Benkert created their reduced three-dimensional picture objects and sculptures.


on loan: Imi Giese






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