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Abstraction

Just colors, shapes and scribbles, or what’s it really all about? Many artists work abstractly and refrain from using recognizable motifs and figures, or else alienate and simplify them. The word abstract means something like “detachment.” But what potential can be unleashed through abstraction? What meanings can colors and forms assume? What moods and feelings arise?

Eine blau-beige Illustration einer großen Vase, deren Schatten sich an der Wand spiegelt

Fantasies, dreams, reality. How would you represent them?

How to represent human states, feelings and thoughts is an eternal question that we deal with from a very young age, while painting as children. Using artistic means, we can express what is happening around us and what leaves traces within us. Sometimes we prefer to let colors, lines and the resulting forms speak, rather than words and images of people and objects. How do artists use such means?

Artist Factory

Artist Nicole Eisenman

was born in Verdun, France, in 1965. They live and work in Brooklyn.

Artwork Factory

Artwork Cy Twombly, Lepanto Cycle, 2001

The “Lepanto” cycle is one of Cy Twombly’s major works and consists of twelve paintings that are exhibited permanently in a separate room at Museum Brandhorst. Vibrant hues in a broad palette of yellows, reds, turquoise and aquamarine define the drama of the monumental paintings. The action on the canvases intensifies, all the artist’s painting tools and painterly gestures are used expressively.

Artwork Factory

Artwork Cy Twombly, Nini’s Painting, 1971

In this work, Cy Twombly’s “doodles” with chalk, crayon, and pencil almost look like writing. We even believe we can read individual letters and words from the lines—for example the names Cy and Nini. But the curved lines do not reveal any message.

Is that a boat or just a splash of color?

Do you look for clues to motifs or figures in paintings? What happens if you don’t find any? Is there always an idea behind a curved line or a thick application of paint that has something to do with objects? Might lines and surfaces also combine to form energies that may have emerged from the artist’s own forcefield? If a blob also evokes a cloud, an umbrella, or a puddle, is it less real than that cloud in a photograph? Or does a cloud perhaps have qualities other than those we can see and document with the naked eye?

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Artwork Jutta Koether, Fresh Aufhebung, 2004

The work “Fresh Aufhebung” consists of 170 canvases, which always have the same format of 50 by 40 centimeters. The paintings were created over the course of a year, with the artist Jutta Koether never painting more than one picture from the series per day. In the museum, the canvases, painted with black acrylic paint, are hung close together on the walls of a room. On display are pale streaks, compositions of dots and circular shapes, or somber swirls.

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Artwork Cy Twombly, Untitled (Gaeta), 1992

In layers, Cy Twombly has applied oil paint, wax crayon, and handwritten text to this three-piece wooden support. Four dark purple shapes, reminiscent of floating boats, come to the fore. But there is no horizon or clearly defined landscape. Rather, the image consists of overlapping strokes, drops, and lines.

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Artwork Amy Sillman, Fatso, 2009

Amy Sillman’s painting “Fatso” shows in a cartoon-like style, in bright green, the massive, shapeless body of a grim looking figure. We can't tell if the figure is male or female.

What do materials, structures and surfaces tell us?

For example: the motif of artworks can also be the material they are made of. Whether oil or neon paints, plaster, coins or fabric, they are the actual protagonists of the work. Each material already has a long history, its own unique structure and surface. In unfamiliar combinations, they can take on completely new meanings. Do you think that forms and contents can influence each other and have some kind of relationship? US artist Jacqueline Humphries paints with fluorescent colors that are only visible under black light, and asks whether this might not give rise to serious abstract painting.

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Artist Seth Price

was born in East Jerusalem, a district of Jerusalem claimed by Palestine and Israel, in 1973.

Creative project Factory

Creative project Exploring materials

What are artworks made of?

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Artwork Laura Owens, Untitled, 2015

The untitled diptych by Laura Owens in the Brandhorst collection is based on layouts from the “Los Angeles Times” from 1942. Sometimes impasto brushstrokes overlay the texts and delicate drawings. The shadows of some brushstrokes are printed, newspaper articles and pictures have been edited and partly replaced by information of a more recent date.

What does detachment mean to you?

Abstraction means something like “detachment,” for example from objects, rules, stories and much more. Can you describe the process based on a work of art that has stuck in your mind? To be able to approach images, we follow the painted layers. Is a scribbled x or a printed brushstroke simply what it is? Or can it stand for something else and appear in very different forms?

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Artwork Kerstin Brätsch for DAS INSTITUT, Heavy Mädel, 2009

Artist Kerstin Brätsch sticks American coins in the shape of a large X onto the colored clouds, which comprise pigment, acrylic and oil on paper. They represent a real value. The fact that the paper is actually unsuitable to support the heavy coins and that coins keep falling off is of no concern to Brätsch, however. She likes the fact that her paintings thus become “wishing wells”—as if you could seal your happiness with a few cents.

Artwork Factory

Artwork Cy Twombly, Nini’s Painting, 1971

In this work, Cy Twombly’s “doodles” with chalk, crayon, and pencil almost look like writing. We even believe we can read individual letters and words from the lines—for example the names Cy and Nini. But the curved lines do not reveal any message.

Creative project Factory

Creative project Write without words

What happens when we try to write without using words?

How do the traces left by our hands differ from those of machines?

Digital devices have long since crept into art as tools. Of particular interest is the combination that brings together the artist’s handwriting and the traces of digital devices on a picture medium. How do the traces of our hands differ from those of machines—what are their respective qualities? Do you regard brushstrokes composed of digitally generated image pixels, or shapes created by a 3D printer, as a stimulating deception or as a disappointment?

Artist Factory

Artist Laura Owens

was born in Euclid, Ohio, USA, in 1970. She lives and works in Los Angeles.

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Artist Wade Guyton

was born in Hammond, Indiana, USA, in 1972.

Artist Factory

Artist Kerstin Brätsch

was born in Hamburg.