04. September 2005 to 16. October 2005
Felix Gmelin / David Godbold / Julee Holcombe / Marie Holzer / Léopold Rabus / Antonio Riello / Uwe Schnatz / Jorge Villalba / Tim White Sobieski / Cindy Wright
Opening: September 3, 2005, 5 to 8pm
curated by Katharina Klara Jung
Pressing the “rewind<<” button on a cassette recorder, video or DVD player triggers a process which unfortunately doesn’t exist in real life: a specific moment can be viewed again carefully, perhaps to discern a detail in the background, to indulge in reminiscences or to re-examine a context more precisely. Rewinding means fetching something of the past into the present and viewing it again in a new light: the content, effect and reception of the past are investigated and checked, enabling it to reappear as a quotation in the here and now.
Quotation in art is a complex and enigmatic stylistic means with as many manifestations as functions, capable of exploring the reference with respect to both content and form. A quotation may be employed as confirmation, contradiction or ironic mockery; it can reveal traditional associations or opposites, and provide a key to interpretation. Pictorial references may be symbols, pointing to specific contexts – including those outside art - or they may represent a direct provocation.
However, in art up until the 20th century, the almost exclusive source of citation was antiquity, while artistic debate with modern works existed largely on the periphery, in satirical caricature. Although cubist artists such as Juan Gris had already used art quotations in order to distinguish their new means of portrayal from traditional painting, the Dadaists were the first to recognise citation as a technique which could lend further significance to their own work by means of provocative reference back to an image already familiar to the public. In an attack on petit-bourgeois art lovers, for example, Berlin Dadaists from the circle around Grosz and Heartfield used “corrected” and “improved” masterpieces in order to mock the hated petit-bourgeoisie’s awed deference before art, destroying its aura.
Marcel Duchamp triggered the most noteworthy, scandalous outcome of provocative quotation; in his work “LHOOQ” (1919), he drew a moustache on a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and added this sequence of letters, which was viewed as a breathtaking lack of respect . It was an obvious attack on the icon with the mysterioussmile, which had become a firm component of the public repertoire of famous art - at the latest since its spectacular theft in 1911, when visitors poured to the Louvre to pay their respects to an empty wall. Duchamp possessed himself of the popular masterpiece, toppling it into the mire of vulgarity; in addition, he declared his own version an independent original - an affront to good taste and a personal insult to any viewer. In the outrage over Duchamp’s picture, the fact that the “insulted” Mona Lisa was a contemporary reproduction rather than Leonardo’s painting itself was largely overlooked.
More than 40 years later, in 1965, Duchamp took his form of citation to the next level. For “LHOOQ rasée”, he used another reproduction of the Mona Lisa - unaltered apart from the title and his signature – and so quoted, not Leonardo, but his own work (which in turn quotes Leonardo). The new work thus integrated the entire art theoretical discourse on originality and plagiarism encompassed by its predecessors.
In his series Non-Objectives I-III (1964) – a work of pastiche - Roy Lichtenstein transposed the most striking formal elements of Piet Mondrian’s oeuvre into his own formal language. In doing so, he altered their arrangement to contradict the theory behind Mondrian’s paintings: in Lichtenstein’s work, Mondrian’s “style” appears as a brand name in the foreground; his art becomes an object of consumerism and thus eliminates Mondrian’s actual theoretical approach.
At the end of the 70s, Art and Language employed a stylistic quotation of an entirely different kind in their series “Portrait of V. I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock”: Beneath the technique of dripping copied from Pollock - which were viewed as an expression of uninhibited individual freedom - they concealed the stern features of Lenin, familiar to all from socialist posters. This combination of technique and contradictory content culminated in a whole series of pairs of opposites, in which political, social and artistic aspects of the East and West were played off against each other.
Appropriation Art has a special place in the history of quotation, and the work of Elaine Sturtevant is a particularly good example: with her almost exact reproductions of contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer or Jasper Johns, she also uses already existing works in order to question – through this duplication – the unique manifestation of an artistic idea and thus the possibility of creating an original artwork at all. However, the alterations that she makes by comparison with her original patterns are so minimal that the border between quotation and replica becomes indistinct.
A negative quotation appeared for the first time in art history with Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing” of 1953, in which Rauschenberg rubbed out a drawing by Willem de Kooning. It drew the (constructive) inspiration for a new work from the destructive gesture of erasing. On the one hand, it is true, Rauschenberg distinguishes himself from his older contemporary, but on the other hand, he defines his own creative work by means of this differentiation from de Kooning, in whom he saw the most important artist of his times.
Between these two poles – Sturtevant on the threshold to reproduction and Rauschenberg, who erases his own reference – there is a wide and diverse range of expressive forms using artistic quotation as a syntactic element within their pictorial rhetoric, the recent development of which this exhibition aims to present.
Text © Katharina Klara Jung
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