Back to the future: new art and the modernist revival

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Building on the Bauhaus legend

While Markus Amm's 1999 reference to the Bauhaus was certainly significant, the ethos of this legendary institution underpins the practice of several newer artists in even more fundamental fashion.

Contemporary German art and the influence of the Bauhaus - Claudia Wieser
image © Claudia Wieser

Claudia Wieser, who graduated from Munich's Akademie der Bildenden Kuenste in 2004, produces works including ceramics, installation, print-making, collage and objects generally associated with the decorative arts.

Echoing the Bauhaus' holistic view of art-making through her multi-disciplinary practice, Weiser also adopts its aesthetic vocabulary along with references to later stylistic developments such as Art Deco.

Contemporary German art and modernist tendencies - Claudia Wieser
Claudia Wieser - installation view

In similar fashion, Nicole Wermers applies visual language culled from a long heritage of modernist design to the production of objects with a specifically utilitarian basis, such as ashtrays, furniture, or even the detector gateways used in stores.

German art and modernist influence - Nicole Wermers
image © Nicole Wermers

These works - which Wermers regards as three-dimensional collages - exist not only as contemporary revisions of the past, but as quasi-historical objects that might plausibly have been authored by exponents of the movements to which she refers.


Dani Jakob's work in felt and fabrics (below) allude to similar concerns, combining aspects of decorative art with bold, constructivist form.

Contemporary German art and the influence of the Bauhaus - Dani Jakob
image © Dani Jakob

German Painting and modernist influence

Contemporary German art - Thomas Scheibitz
Thomas Scheibitz - view of the artist's studio

Among the many German painters whose work shows allegiance to early 20th century experimentation, Thomas Scheibitz was one of the first to attract international attention.

First exhibiting in 1997, Scheibitz combined figurative gesture with abstracted form, leading some critics to find similarities with Picasso's early cubism and define his work as 'post-cubist'.

Modernism, abstraction and German art: Thomas Scheibitz, 2001

In fact, a wide range of historic references emerge in Scheibitz's painting, including the emphatic vanishing point typical of early De Chirico, the curvilinear, abstracted planes of Franz Marc and, increasingly, the formal language of constructivism.

Modernism and its influence on recent German art - Thomas Scheibitz, 2008
images © Thomas Scheibitz

In addition, his palette of generally subdued, often discordant colour - which bears some resemblance to that of Leipzig artist Neo Rauch (Scheibitz was also raised and educated in the former East Germany) - imbues his work with a similarly anachronistic, period quality, although resemblance between the two painters is otherwise scant.

Scheibitz's early emphasis on abstracted form was rapidly followed by increasing interest in pure abstraction achieved through geometric planes reminiscent of constructivist aesthetics.

Although, for a time, Scheibitz's work appeared something of an anomaly in a German and, indeed, international art scene preoccupied with figurative painting, other emerging artists began to supply a context within which his work could be read.

Modernist abstraction and German contemporary art
image © Hansjörg Dobliar

One of the most important of these is undoubtedly Hansjörg Dobliar, whose first solo exhibition in 2004 showed preliminary signs of an interest in painterly planes of differentiated colour which would quickly become a synthesis of various early abstract modernist tendencies.

Encompassing a wide variety of influences including expressionism, rayonism, futurism and constructivism, Dobliar also refers to movements such as Dada through the collaged works that form a corollary to his paintings and sculpture.

Modernist abstraction and German contemporary art
image © Marco Meiran

Many other recent German painters likewise allude to various aspects of modernist form.

Marco Meiran's homage to geometric abstraction ranges from complex constructivist syntheses (left) to increasingly pared down compositions that are more akin to suprematism.

Modernism and German contemporary art: Michael Conrads
image © Michael Conrads

Young, Hamburg-based artist Michael Conrads (left) also borrows from geometric abstraction while incorporating the painterly qualities of cubism and even expressionism.

Jost Münster freely adapts early abstract motifs (below), while painter Yesim Akdenis Graf (page bottom), has recently eschewed her predominantly narrative formats and moved closer towards abstraction, together with an emphasis on collaged materials such as fabrics.

 German contemporary art and modernist precedents
images © Jost Münster
Modernism and German contemporary art
image © Yesim Akdenis Graf

The German modernist revival > next

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