Saturday 20 November, 2 - 4pm

Dusseldorf! When Artists Talk to Each Other

A panel discussion moderated by Amei Wallach with Luka Fineisen, Pati Hertling, Birgit Jensen and Bernard Lokai

NEW YORK: Hosfelt Gallery will present the panel discussion Dusseldorf! When Artists Talk to Each Other in conjunction with the exhibition EINFLUSS: 8 from Dusseldorf - Introducing the Next Wave from Germany. The program will be moderated by art critic and historian Amei Wallach and include curator Pati Hertling, and artists Luka Fineisen, Birgit Jensen and Bernard Lokai. The panel will address the work in the exhibition EINFLUSS and the influence of Dusseldorf on contemporary art.

EINFLUSS introduces a group of eight artists associated with Dusseldorf and its Kunstakademie in an exhibition comprised of painting, sculpture and site-specific installation. Ranging in age from their early 30s to late 40s, each artist's practice is characterized by a full awareness of the history of art-making and the dialogue about its relevance.

Dusseldorf, long an essential center of European art-making because of the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf (est. 1762), is one of the most influential training grounds for artists in the world. Some of the artists associated with the Kunstakademie -- either as students, or as teachers -- include Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Nam June Paik, Blinky Palermo, Yoshitomo Nara, Rosemarie Trockel, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Thomas Demand, Tony Cragg, Katharina Fritsch, Thomas Sch?tte, Anselm Kiefer and Sigmar Polke.

Dusseldorf is an exceptional breeding ground for art due to a unique confluence: the unsurpassed significance of the Kunstakademie, a dynamic "artist's club" (salon), visionary galleries, a long history of sophisticated and voracious private collecting, beautiful city-subsidized studio spaces, publicly-funded museums with a tradition of collecting contemporary art, and a host of kunsthalles throughout the country that exhibit and collect contemporary work that isn't necessarily fashionable.

Luka Fineisen was born in Offenburg, Germany and studied at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf with Fritz Schwegler and Irmin Kamp. She makes sculpture, often at a heroic scale, from liquids, bubbles, even fragrance. While utilizing the familiar tools of sculptors - space, scale, texture and light -- she subverts convention. Her work has been exhibited extensively in Germany.

Pati Hertling was born in Berlin, Germany. She holds a master's degree in French and U.S. law and currently works as an art restitution attorney. Since 2005 she has been working on small, independent curatorial projects. Together with artist Peter Kisur, she started Evas Arche und der Feminist in 2005 in Berlin, a monthly series of salon events presenting works of two artists for one night. She has continued Evas Arche in New York City since 2007, first at Gavin Brown's project space and now upstairs at Gavin Brown's Enterprise on Leroy Street. Evas Arche und der Feminist has been presented at MoMA's PopRally series, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, P.S.1 Saturday Sessions, Artists Space, and the Goethe Institute. In 2009 Hertling curated the group exhibition "modern modern" at the Chelsea Art Museum.

The subjects of Birgit Jensen's recent works are iconic places to which she's never been - Mount Everest, the Great Wall, Giza. To make them, she appropriates an image, manipulates the pixels forming the image into patterns, then makes a shimmering, low-resolution painting. From a distance, the subjects are discernible, but up close, they come apart into textile-like structures. Like the artist, most of us know these places through images rather than first-hand, yet they are recognizable. Her work is about extreme mediation. The viewer is asked to de-code a painting of a photograph that has been digitally manipulated by an artist who's never seen the place. It's a bit like the children's game "telephone" - and raises the issue of the veracity of art making.

Jensen's work has been exhibited in Germany and the United States. Her work is in the collections of the Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf; Museum der Stadt Flensburg; Sammlung des Landes Schleswig-Holstein; and Franklin Furnace, New York among others.

Bernard Lokai was born in Bohumin, Czech & Slovak Federal Republic. He studied painting at the Kunstakademie Dusseldorf with Gerhard Richter. His work explores the relationship between abstraction and representation, as well as the most fundamental question an artist can ask: what does it mean to paint an image? Lokai has exhibited extensively throughout Germany and this will be his first exhibition in New York.

Amei Wallach is an art critic, filmmaker and commentator. She is Luce Foundation Visiting Scholar at Syracuse University and Program Director of the Art Writing Workshop, a partnership between the International Art Critics Association/USA and the Warhol Foundation/Creative Capital Arts Writers Grant Program. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, New York Times Magazine, Art in America, ArtNews, The Nation, Elle, Vanity Fair and the Smithsonian. She was for many years on-air Arts Essayist for the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour and chief art critic for New York Newsday and has written or contributed to a dozen books.

Wallach's exhibition, Neo Sincerity: The Difference Between the Comic and the Cosmic Is a Single Letter, won an AICA/USA "Best Show" award. She co-directed, with the late Marion Cajori, the internationally acclaimed 2008 documentary, "Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and The Tangerine." She is currently making a feature-length film on the Soviet-born artists Ilya and Emilia Kabakov (


When Germany won the Franco/Prussian War in 1871, it declared itself a Reich in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. That Reich was a pieced together patchwork of princedoms, bishoprics, duchies, kingdoms and free municipalities.

Throughout modern Germany's tumultuous history, this sense of regional independence and civic competition has persisted, particularly in the realm of culture. There is scarcely a German city worth the name that does not support its own opera house, theater, concert hall, museum, and kunsthalle. Provincial and municipal governments have traditionally poured money into institutions that support artists and educate their audiences. Those audiences have long had the chops to view, collect, and above all argue art. And nowhere is this more evident than in the city of Dusseldorf.

Dusseldorf may be smaller and have fewer galleries than Cologne, its chief artistic rival in the state of Nordheim Westfalen. But Dusseldorf is the state capital, centered on the Rhine, and closer to Belgium and the Netherlands than New York is to Washington. Even at its most inward looking, it had the bones to become an international city.

To many in Germany in the early 1950s, and particularly at Kunstakademie Dusseldorf , this meant signing onto the worldwide preoccupation with abstract art, a language with the utopian potential of overcoming inconvenient local tics or the unpalatable past, a kind of visual Esperanto that all nations could be taught to speak.

And then came the ZERO Group and Joseph Beuys. By the time Beuys, the Kunstacademie student, became a professor in 1961, he was teaching a new generation to confront Germany's history and their own in often ephemeral and metaphorical objects, performances, film and street theater that resonated with a blossoming international movement, Fluxus. Fluxus practitioners, including Nam June Paik and George Macunias, came to the Akademie to teach, followed by Minimalists like Robert Morris. Gerhard Richter, Jorg Immendorff and other refugees from East Germany imported irony and for a time applied it to a form of Pop they called Capitalist Realism.

In 1972, Beuys, acting on his conviction that "art is for everyone," admitted 50 students whose applications had been turned down by the prestigious school and was fired by the Minister of Science and Research. The whole city went wild, arguing both sides with a proprietary interest unimaginable in, say, Baltimore.

Basically, art put Dusseldorf on the map as more than a financial and industrial capital. The 1960s and 1970s established Dusseldorf and its Akademie as one of the centers of the European art universe. Bruce Nauman, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, and Daniel Buren found an audience there. Sigmar Polke and Thomas Struth studied at the Akademie. Rosemarie Trockel, Richter, and the photographer Bernd Becher taught there. Graduates found studio space, galleries, collectors and the availability of other artists to talk to. They stayed.

After reunification in the 1990s, some of them went to Berlin, the hot new art city. But studios are no longer so inexpensive in Berlin, and life is harder, so some are returning, the artist Luka Fineisen says.

In Dusseldorf, museums and art spaces, large and small, have grown apace. This year's "Quadriennale" the second all-city arts festival, now on view through January 16, 2011, includes exhibitions by nine Dusseldorf museums and galleries.

The message is that Dusseldorf not only has a past on which to rest its laurels, it has a vital future. A focused moment in that future is on view in the Hosfelt Gallery's New York exhibition: EINFLUSS; 8 from Dusseldorf - Introducing the Next Wave from Germany.

Gallery owner Todd Hosfelt has made any number of trips to Dusseldorf and was galvanized by the range and the depth of the art. The show he assembled is a curated show, with an emphasis on painting and sculpture, particularly painting. There could have been different exhibitions of younger Dusseldorf artists engaged with video, performance, installation, and new media, particularly now that the British sculptor Tony Cragg has become director of the Akademie.

To one degree or another, the artists in this exhibition -- Stefan Ettlinger, Luka Fineisen, Jutta Haeckel, Birgit Jensen, Stefan Kurten, Bernard Lokai, and Cornelius V?lker ? are connected with the Akademie. They are in their 30s and 40s, so their years there were under the long shadow of the Neo-expressionist painter Markus Lupertz, who directed the school from 1988 to 2009. His stated predilection is for painting over everything.

On the Deutschewelle television show, "Talking Germany," Lupertz declared, "People would like to abolish painting because photography is easy to understand." He pledged his allegiance to abstraction -- "the material of the paint begins with the material of the canvas" -- and declared that painting cannot be international because painting is "always defined by where the artist happens to be."

Nevertheless, Fineisen says, ?I liked to be in his school, though I wouldn't want him to be my alpha animal.?

She had studied in the U.S., at the Memphis College of Art, where technique and degrees were the focus, "which is stupid when it comes to art," she says. In Dusseldorf students worked on their own together in a large room in order to discover themselves, with professors on hand when needed.

"The professors were just living their lives as successful artists, so it was less about teaching and more about showing how an artist's life can be," she says.

She relished the teasing playfulness that was in the air at school and is central to her sculptures. So is a sense of materials as the site of investigation and experimentation, which she shares with the painters in this exhibition. Her work "Honey," at Hosfelt, consists of a large plexiglas frame within which resins with the misleading look of honey seem to drip onto a bar below. In her work "Milk," the substance is white. The sculptures impudently riff on Wolfgang Laib's spirituality, while drawing attention to duration and process.

Process and flux are also at the heart of Stefan Ettlinger's painting "Acht" (Eight), in egg tempera and oil on canvas. The images in the painting - possibly a mountain, possibly a train - are ambiguous and slippery.

Birgit Jensen blows up digital images and paints them in acrylic on linen, creating billowing swells of insubstantiality and movement that distance and manipulate nature into its pixelated equivalent.

"Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it," Jasper Johns famously wrote in his notebook. In effect, that is what these artists do with the infinite variety of paint and canvas.

Or to put it Gerhard Richter's way, "What I'm attempting in each picture is nothing other than this... to bring together in a living and viable way, the most different and the most contradictory elements in the greatest possible freedom."

But the works on view live in the present. In his oil on canvas "Landschaftsblock N" (Landscape Block N), Bernard Lokai wittily posits a grided vocabulary of homages to the ways in which Anselm Kiefer, Robert Ryman, Willem de Kooning, Fred Tomaselli, or a finger painter might handle paint. The juxtapositions announce their very contemporary skepticism and equivocation.

Cornelius Volker has chosen "Meerschweinchen," guinea pigs, as the subject for his series of some 60 oil on linen variations on the themes of abstraction, color, gesture, and material. The grounds of the paintings are incandescent bleeding bands of color so improbable that a student once asked him what computer program he used to achieve them.

Guinea pigs are synonymous with the scientific experiments that are done upon them. The guinea pigs that dominate but are not quite centered on Volker's canvases are experiments in brushwork, in how many ways you can depict fur, by building layers, slashing, dabbing, shading, scraping, swiping. He looks for the moment when the fur becomes the means of depicting it. It becomes color and stroke. And then, to the mercurial eye, it becomes fur again.

"Painting is its own reality," Richter said.

For these Dusseldorf painters, it is a reality in continuous flux, filled with possibility and doubt.