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Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents Last Works From Manet to Kippenberger

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt presents Last Works From Manet to Kippenberger an exhibition on view through June 2, 2013.

Claude Monet
Claude Monet, Nymphéas, 1914–17. Oil on canvas, 150 x 200 cm. Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel. © Fondation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel.

From Manet to Kippenberger, which comprises about one hundred exhibits. Outstanding works and groups of works dating from the late nineteenth century to the present strikingly demonstrate the final intensification or even surprising turn within an artist’s oeuvre. The exhibition centers on works by fourteen artists such as Claude Monet and Henri Matisse, who produced a late work that has received acclaim in the meantime, or Martin Kippenberger and Bas Jan Ader, who, when they died young, left us an almost unknown “late work.” Thematically framed confrontations in seven consecutive rooms assemble works by artists from Willem de Kooning, Alexej von Jawlensky, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Andy Warhol to Francis Picabia or Ad Reinhardt and, in doing so, offer sometimes surprising views of the selected artists’ oeuvres.

The presentation at the Schirn is not chronologically structured, but rather aimed at creating fascinating confrontations with two artists each entering into a mostly unexpected dialogue with each other. Claude Monet’s famous water lilies of the late 1910s, for example, find themselves in the company of the flower still lifes with which Édouard Manet, in 1882/83, gave expression to his undiminished positive attitude toward life only weeks before his early death. Willem de Kooning’s abstract late work is related to the cutouts of the Jazz portfolio that ushered in Henri Matisse’s famous last creative phase, the chapter of his “papiers découpés,” at a time when the artist was almost eighty. For his last film, Chinese Series, the US experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage scratched sign-like forms into a black filmstrip with his fingernails shortly before his death in 2003. In the exhibition in the Schirn, this work will be confronted with a selection from the about one thousand small-format pictures known as Meditations by Alexej von Jawlensky, who, born in Russia in 1864, was ravaged by disease and almost paralyzed when he made them, exerting himself to the utmost, between 1934 and 1937.

In art history, the concept of the “late work” has been hitherto discussed nearly exclusively in terms of the existence of a so-called late or mature style. Going beyond such style-oriented questions, the exhibition in the Schirn is based on the assumption of a unique variety of late works without all too rashly looking for a common denominator. Besides such famous groups of works as Monet’s late water lily pictures or Andy Warhol’s last cycle The Last Supper, the show also comprises less known, surprising “last works.” The visitor will not only find Georgia O’Keeffe’s series of cloud pictures the artist painted when she was almost eighty, which render the experience of flying as a new dimension for O’Keeffe in the 1960s, but also Francis Picabia’s radically reduced dot paintings, whose minimalist character and intentionally bad painting were felt to be a downright provocation when the pictures were presented to the public for the first time in Paris in 1949.

All in all, the presented works reveal quite different facets of the imminent end of artistic activity: newly obtained freedom and self-confidence, increased productivity, processes of reorientation resulting from physical restrictions, reflections on one’s beginnings, or stoical insistence on the path chosen come into play as do aspects of disdain for one’s fate, chance, and repetition. Finally, the presentation of Ad Reinhardt’s black square pictures dating from 1960 to 1966 provides an opportunity to explore the aesthetic engagement with the “last work” and the end of painting.

Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Römerberg, D-60311 Frankfurt
Hours: Tuesday, Friday–Sunday 10–7pm,
Wednesday & Thursday 10–10pm
T +49-(0)69 29 98 82-0
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