Uniting a number of key classics from the Louisiana collection, this summer presentation stood as a tour-de-force through some of the main trends in modern art history after the Second World War. From figuration and abstraction to minimalism and pop. With works by Picasso, Bacon, Warhol, Lichtenstein etc.
The Second World War had a huge impact on art. There was a dominant sense of having reached a shocking nadir. While an increasingly unequivocal abstraction was on display in the post-war years, a more intense, more existential preoccupation with the human body also emerged.
Picasso was a luminary even before the war, while in their own way artists such as Francis Bacon, Wifredo Lam and Jean Dubuffet each provided new expressions of humanity: neurotic in movement, unbound by form and as rudimentary as a child’s drawing can be.
new sense of scale
Entering the 1970s, some areas of art put to use a new sense of scale. Generally, paintings and sculptures quite simply grew larger. Precisely what led to this has been widely debated, but the phenomenon is related to new post-war building trends.
American artists led the way in expressions that ruptured early modern painting’s relationship to the body in favour of an over-all effect. As seen here, this was often ‘hard-edged’, but was at the same time a way for the form, colours and rhythm of a work to spill over into spaces of any dimension. With the exception of the work of Sam Francis, where a sequence of wet splatters recalls a body of water or light seen through tree foliage, a conspicuously sober and even application of colour dominated – which is also true of Morris Louis, whose work is structured by colour, the materiality of the canvas and the law of gravity. Systems thus became a dominant feature.
Pop All Over
Pop Art entered the world with the same energy as the market mechanisms through which the international advertising industry made its breakthrough in the 1960s. At the start of the decade, Louisiana was one of the first places this new wave struck in Europe.
In Roy Lichtenstein’s large work, which was on show at the end of the gallery, there is a direct greeting from across the pond to the museum in Humlebæk – with the artist’s wife, Dorothy, in profile and a sailboat on the Sound on the horizon.
While Pop Art’s narratives of freedom and desire can be easily seen on the surface, Dorothy Iannone’s erotic hymn stands out by directly transmitting the artist’s own desire ‘into the living room’ via the television screen.
From pop art and large-scale to minimalism in the form of e.g. Yves Klein's three famous monochrome colour coated works in red, blue and gold as well as Ann Veronica Janssens' golden vessel filled to the brim with optical phenomena. The works use a deliberately reduced formal language. A language which is boiled down to easily readable parts, which typically meet us with a strict material uniformity. The minimum becomes a theater here, with us in the lead role.
Louise Bourgeois' prints
The prints and the pillow at the end of the exhibition testify to how the chambers of history are filled with a dramatic mix of furniture, bodies, bathtubs, bones and instruments, pointing as much to relief and as punishment.
The female figure is at once all the women of the world and Bourgeois herself, and between the sketching of the pen in the two hand drawings in the hallway, the stitching of the pillow and the engraving of the etching needles in the metal surface, there is the sense of a web, a mesh of threads that effortlessly points in the direction of her famous spider sculptures.
Film in the small theatre
Today, William Kentridge is best known for his drawings, installations and animated films. Louisiana’s collection contains several works by the artist, with the film 'Sibyl' being the latest addition. The sibyls were mythological prophetesses, oracles who knew the fate of everyone and everything and could read bad omens.
The film’s visual anchoring in an encyclopedia, the pages of which are being turned, not only hints at the eternal urgency of fate but also of we mortals’ pursuit to know and compile everything.