Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Hieroglyphics

23.09.2016 to 26.02.2017
Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin

From September 23, 2016 to February 26, 2017, "Neue Galerie" at Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin will be showing all works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner from the Nationalgalerie's collection, complemented by contemporary works by Rosa Barba and Rudolf Stingel.

With the exhibition Ernst Ludwig Kirchner: Hieroglyphs, Kirchner's works from the collection of Berlin's Nationalgalerie will be shown for the first time in their entirety. Hardly any other museum Germany can present the wide variety of Kirchner's work as impressively as Berlin's Nationalgalerie with its holdings. Complemented by important loans that clarify Kirchner's concept of the "hieroglyph," and works by the contemporary artists Rosa Barba and Rudolf Stingel, the exhibition offers new insights into the expressionist's work.

The experience of the big city, "immediate ecstasy," Ernst Ludwig Kirchner explained, was already captured as "complete hieroglyphs" in the preliminary drawing. Kirchner used this concept to describe his act of artistic translation. Kirchner abstracted figures, buildings, and landscapes to individual elements, and eloquent details such as hats, shoe tips, window frames, or bridge arches often take on the role of narrator. Painting thus takes the form of a system of open signs, of hieroglyphs.

With this focus, the exhibition directs attention toward the 17 paintings by the artist in the museum's own collection: from the early Seated Nude of the Dresden Brücke period, to Bathers on the Beach (Fehmarn) and formally dense works like Max Liebermann or Meadow Flowers and Cat from the artist's late oeuvre. Several Kirchner photographs and books and drawings complement the presentation at Hamburger Bahnhof, underscoring the cultural charge of these apparently so direct and immediate visual worlds. References to Carl Einstein's book Negerplastik (Negro Sculpture) or the expressive dance of the 1920s show Kirchner's intense engagement with various cultures and folk art. Kirchner's craftsmanship like that furniture he carved for his studio and living space or a rug created based on his design show the mixture of various artistic media and the appropriation of multifarious forms of cultural reference.

The exhibition is framed by the work of two contemporary artists: New York based artist Rudolf Stingel created paintings based on Kirchner's photographs. In his version of Stafelalp, the traces of the artist's life depicted stand for two things: for the patina of the photograph and for painting's fundamental possibilities. The exhibition begins with a film by Italian artist Rosa Barba. The film shows the collection in the depot of Neue Nationalgalerie. Far from Kirchner's own world, the film directs our gaze once again towards eloquent signs: in a theatrical twilight, the fixed arrangements and contours seem to dissolve. The pieces in the collection become shadows of themselves, virtually spectral phenomena.

While Neue Nationalgalerie undergoes renovation, "Neue Galerie" at Hamburger Bahnhof will serve as an outpost, showing selections from the collection of art from the early twentieth century in changing exhibitions. Against the backdrop of planning for a new building at Kulturforum, "Neue Galerie" thus consciously explores new perspectives on now "classical" modernism.

The exhibition is made possible by the Freunde der Nationalgalerie.

Exhibition website

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