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Kunstmuseum Thurgau Presents Richard Phillips / Adolf Dietrich. Painting and Misappropriation

The Kunstmuseum Thurgau presents Richard Phillips / Adolf Dietrich. Painting and Misappropriation / Malerei und Aneignung, on view through 28 August 2011.

The exhibition, presents works by two artists who—at first glance—couldn’t be more different. Massachusetts-born Richard Phillips (1964) has achieved international fame as a Pop artist, while Adolf Dietrich was a Swiss Outsider artist who died in Berlingen in 1957. The show presents Richard Phillips’ large paintings after motifs by Dietrich alongside the American artist’s own selection of Dietrich’s works. Their juxtaposition produces a complex dialogue that defies categorisation.

For the duration of this exhibition, and for the first time ever, Kunstmuseum Thurgau will also display one of the most important private collections of Dietrich’s works.

Today Adolf Dietrich is considered not only one of Switzerland’s leading 20th century painters but, curiously enough, a Naive artist also. In contrast, Richard Phillips is a contemporary painter, whose choice of provocative themes, unique style and the sheer intensity of his gigantic compositions push the medium to its very limits. Phillips paints portraits after material found in the public domain, whereas Dietrich’s work is entirely focused on the loving depiction of pristine nature. What brought these two very different artists together?

Phillips’ first encounter with Dietrich’s work was due to a chance event at Zürich’s renowned Kronenhalle restaurant, where he had dinner with Swiss artist Peter Fischli. After their meal Fischli took him to see the paintings on the upper floor. When they came to Dietrich’s drawing, “Two Squirrels,” Phillips was captivated by its intense presence: “I was deeply moved by its emotional depth and the subtle detail of observation.”

Phillips decided to explore Dietrich’s imagery and formal idiom from inside, as it were, by copying his works. By 2003 he had completed his first painting entitled “Similar to Squirrels. After A. Dietrich”, the large-format copy of a reproduction of Dietrich’s 1932 painting also entitled “Two Squirrels”. Phillips has been involved in an intense dialogue with Dietrich’s works ever since.

The show Painting and Misappropriation, co-curated by Richard Phillips and Gianni Jetzer, was presented last year at the Swiss Institute in New York. The actual juxtaposition of these works addresses differences and similarities, and renders the artists’ visions palpable. Dietrich and Phillips both use the same subjects—animals, people, landscapes. Also, they stylistically heighten figuration to a degree of artificiality that goes far beyond realistic depiction.

The encounter leads to a radical re-interpretation of these works. While Phillips’ art is often criticised for being too literal, Dietrich’s art has been pigeonholed as naive. The process of appropriation throws a new light on both oeuvres, underscoring the classical qualities of Richard Phillips’ paintings while revealing the radical qualities of Adolf Dietrich’s compositions.

A richly illustrated catalogue documents the exhibition; essays by Richard Phillips and Dorothee Messmer, and an interview of the artist by Beatrix Ruf provide a deeper insight into the artist’s motivations for this unique project.

Works by Adolf Dietrich from a private collection
For the duration of this exhibition, Kunstmuseum Thurgau is proud to present another highlight—one of Thurgau’s most important private collections of works by Adolf Dietrich, an impressive assemblage of unique paintings.

Image:Richard Phillips, “Message Force Multiplier,” 2009. Oil on linen, 198 x 149 cm. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York. © The artist.

Kunstmuseum Thurgau
Kartause Ittingen
CH-8532 Warth, Switzerland
T 0041 58 345 10 60

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