Born in three different decades, Heinz Mack (born 1931) and Isa Genzken (born 1948) both developed their artistic careers in the period after the Second World War while Thomas Schütte (born 1954) is from a more contemporary generation. Work from the three artists has been on display in exhibitions in London and Manchester which illustrate the differences in style of these three German artists.
Heinz Mack founded the ZERO movement with Otto Piene to create a monochromatic and geometric style after the Second World War, which demonstrated that sophisticated shade and “colour” could be achieved using the interplay of black and white. The exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts in London showed Mack’s work from the ZERO period (1950-60s) alongside recent vibrantly-coloured paintings and sculpture, with some interesting interconnections as his polished stainless steel sculptures from the 1960’s reflect the bright colours from his more recent works.
Isa Genzken, one of Germany’s most important contemporary artists, questions the relationship of capitalism with modern society. In the Geldbilder works on display at Hauser and Wirth in London, she incorporates paper currency (euros, dollars and pounds) and coins in her paintings, highlighting the complex relationship between the aesthetic value of currency as both works of art in their own right and also symbols of our capitalist society, with a further question about paintings themselves as investments, holding and increasing their value in times of volatility in the financial markets. She incorporates graffiti, advertising material and other everyday objects, while her newer works also includes references to the simple geometry of modern skyscrapers and architecture.
The exhibition also includes a group of concrete sculptures from the early 1980s which have ambiguous references to both modern buildings and to modern technology.
In the newly-refurbished Whitworth Gallery in Manchester, one of the rooms has been taken over by an installation by Thomas Schütte. Low Tide Wandering is his dairy for the year 2001. He decided to use etchings for these 139 illustrations as a reaction against computers and digital art and they include a wide variety of subjects and graphics from that year such as views of the sea, portraits of friends, flower studies, letters and references to the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. These are hung in several streams like washing across the room and change subject as the visitor wanders through the room, following Schütte’s diary for the year.