German artists who emerged after 1960 explored their postwar landscape-situated between recent disaster and rising prosperity with a combination of skepticism, uncertainty, and excitement to begin anew. This generation addressed aspects of their country s calamitous history, including World War II and the Holocaust as well as the ongoing Cold War, with varied means of expression. Drawn from the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this presentation features monographic galleries devoted to leading German artists such as Gerard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and William Kentrige.
/// Gerard Richter /// Construction and deconstruction were continual themes in Richter’s work, as he witnessed the rebuilding of Europe in the decades after World War II. Throughout his career has pivoted between abstraction and figuration, continually exploring the ambiguity of images and questioning their relation to reality. His education led him to reject the idea that art should be linked to any particular ideology, and this has freed him to work in a broad range of styles. The diversity of his work is unified by his impulse to create new meaning through the sustained examination of art’s conventions and history.
/// Bernd & Hilla Becher /// began to document Germany’s vanishing industrial structures in 1959, in the period of rapid cultural and economic change that accompanied Germany’s postwar reconstruction efforts. Their nearly fifty-year collaboration started in Siegen and they soon expanded their work throughout Germany, Europe and the United States, in black-and-white photographs they captured innumerable water towers, cooling towers, gas holders, and other industrial structures.
They favored subjects that were on the brink of disappearing.
In the 1960s they began to organize their photographs according to “typologies” and to present similar types of structure in a grid format. These groups invite comparison between subjects, promoting viewers to discover regional variations among structural types and to delight in spotting fanciful elements in utilitarian forms.
/// Anselm Kiefer /// was born in Germany shortly before the end of World War II. Much of his work explores the weight of the National Socialist (Nazi) legacy through the use of unusual materials, potent imagery, and fragments of text. The works on view in the show were created primarily in the 1980s, when the artist began to excavate the links between nature, culture and nation. With immense physicality and fragility, they frequently depict plowed fields, monumental architecture and other charged sites in Germany’s calamitous history.
/// William Kentrige /// based in Johanesburg where he was born in 1955, became known for a series of what he called drawings for projection: short animated films portraying daily life under apartheid. In his technique of stop motion animation of charcoal drawings Kentrige painstakingly develops erases and reworks a single drawing for each film sequence-the residual traces evocative of culture memory. The image comes into being as much from what the artist takes away, making palpable the physicality of his process in the studio.