One suspects the decision to hold a Baselitz retrospective in Baden-Baden had a lot to do with architecture. The modernist Museum Frieder Burda and its neo-classical partner, the Staatliche Kunsthalle, lie adjacent with one suspended corridor half-heartedly connecting them. One half hosts 50 YEARS OF PAINting, the other 30 YEARS OF SCULPTURE. While initially confounded by the idea to display the elements separately, I soon discovered this was a wise manoeuvre.
Renowned for his innovative compositions in the field of painting, Baselitz is a formidable figure in contemporary art. The paintings displayed track the key stages of his career, from the early HEROES works with their courageously brutal imagery to the famous INVERTED MOTIF works. Other means of fracturing the picture plane are exhibited, as are some interesting finger paintings; EAGLE displays Baselitz' potential for a softer touch with a technique that demands close proximity to canvas. The intriguing DOLORES is particularly clever in its use of the inversion motif, with the conflicting gravity perplexing the viewer. WIR DAHEIM on the other hand is composed of such garish colours that the inversion is reduced to an amateurish gimmick. The recent series REMIX was also represented; however in contrast to the powerful gestures of earlier work the bright red splashes across MODERNER MALER (REMIZ) seem to lack conviction.
Traversing the corridor into the Kunsthalle, one arrives in the primarily sculptural section. It is interesting to note that Baselitz states he finds sculpture more direct than painting. Certainly these exhibits, displayed alongside associated paintings, support this view.
There is little uncertainty here; with the exception of the early, appropriately named MODEL FOR A SCULPTURE of 1979, the sculptural work of Baselitz only gains capacity to involve and surprise. G.-KOPF at the same time attracts and repulses. Seeing the remnants of the fierce attacks inflicted during production, the scarred wood incites you to touch its surface but also recoil from this victim. These sculptures have an immediacy not always found in the painted works, as instead of labouring over compositional techniques, Baselitz can focus on the elements'heads, torsos, seated figures'and let his chaotic destruction speak for itself.
That innocent little corridor turned out to be one of the cleverest moments of the exhibition. While moving, the viewer can digest those famous pictures that shot Baselitz to fame, and take a deep breath in time for the emotional onslaught of the sculptures beyond.