In a few decades, when will a complete history of creation begin to be written in the last decades of the 20th century?e century and the firsts of the XXIe, Georg Baselitz will appear as an inconvenient case for those who want to proceed by movements and categories. The visual and emotional power of his paintings, sculptures and graphic works will be as evident and compelling as it is today. There is little doubt that one will always be so severely shaken, and even hurt, by his representations of tattered bodies, his heads with bulging eyes and screaming mouths.
In the retrospective held in Beaubourg, the test is repeated regularly, whatever the dates of the works, the subjects and stylistic manners. Words as overused as magnetism are needed, for lack of anything better. In all his exhibitions – there have been many in Europe over the past twenty years – the phenomenon is confirmed, and its violence does not weaken.
There is therefore a very great artist there, one of the greatest of today. And this man is doing a work in isolation that cannot be compared to any other today. Among his contemporaries, Baselitz stands alone, including among his first-rate German contemporaries – Gerhard Richter (born 1932) and Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), who can be inscribed in pop art because they are manipulators of images already there. Him, no. He makes them emerge from who knows where. He is alone, as Alberto Giacometti and Francis Bacon were in their time: unfailingly attached to the human figure, to painting and sculpture, and indifferent to the fashions and movements of their time. They therefore do not fall under any classification.
To measure Baselitz’s uniqueness, you need history. Born under the name of Hans-Georg Kern, in 1938, in the village of Deutschbaselitz, near Dresden, he was a child at the time of the destruction of the city, bombed in February 1945. He saw the ruins shortly after, and saw , still a child, the collapse of IIIe Reich. He was a teenager in the Democratic Republic of Germany, under Soviet domination, and a student at the School of Fine Arts in East Berlin in 1956. He was expelled the following year because his works bore the mark of Picasso, whose socialist realism abhors. He crosses the border between the two halves of the city and is admitted to the Beaux-Arts in Berlin, west side.
A regular life, but uneasy: several scandals have agitated her, which should not surprise an artist who refuses to compromise
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