Richard Shiff: German Art Without Ideology

Duncan Phillips Lecture

September 24, 2015, 6:30 pm

A new generation of artists established an avant-garde reputation in Germany during the 1960s, in part because they moved against the grain, developing forms of figuration rather than geometric abstraction. Their works were eclectic and even contradictory, often combining the look of commercial illustration and American-style Pop with expressionistic brushwork associated with postwar art on both sides of the Atlantic—Asger Jorn and Hans Hartung, as much as Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. This work was an anti-ideological assertion of aesthetic freedom rather than aesthetic allegiance. Ironically, when this same body of work gained attention in the United States during the 1980s, a number of critics perceived it in a deeply ideological way, quite alien to its aims. Richard Shiff discusses this turn in reception, highlighting the art of Per Kirkeby, A.R. Penck, Georg Baselitz, and Markus Lüpertz.