White Cube Hong Kong is pleased to announce Sofabilder / Sofa Pictures, an exhibition of recent paintings and drawings by German artist Georg Baselitz that give new and haunting form to his lifelong quest to unite abstraction and figuration in an inextricable dance. A nude female form based loosely on Baselitz's wife Elke, whom he's depicted throughout his career and now conjures from memory, is a central motif in each work.
Pablo Picasso's 1942 painting L'Aubade (The Serenade) is among the inspirations for Baselitz's images. Based on Titian's 1538 Venus of Urbino, Picasso's odalisque is a highly abstracted female figure reclining on a couch while being serenaded by a lute player. References to the Spanish artist appear in the playful titles of paintings, such as Woman and the Congo Mask (2021), and in the guitars that appear in a number of the untitled drawings. Additionally, Picasso was an unsparing observer of the aging process, which is an overarching theme in these and many of Baselitz's recent works.
In Baselitz's paintings, figures are rendered in white and float on their sides on rectangular black backgrounds. Some are set in rudimentary architectural spaces demarcated by white lines, others in an inky void. To make them, Baselitz used a monotype process. First he painted an image of a standing or sitting figure on a canvas and then placed another canvas on top of it, applying pressure with the back of a push broom to transfer the wet paint from one surface to another. Often used by the Surrealists, this technique introduces elements of chance to the final image and here lends a ghostly, skeletal quality to the figures. Rendered in quick, often translucent strokes of white paint, they call to mind X-ray photographs or cadavers on display in glass coffins.
The drawings, created by dancing lines of red and black India ink, also feature female forms floating in the horizontal plane, but some of these 'Elke figures' are accompanied by images of the artist himself. Set in schematic rooms containing a rectangular couch or bed, their loose, expressive compositions are punctuated by dots, from which trail blood-like rivulets of ink.
Although the subject matter of the canvases and works on paper calls to mind memento mori–skulls and degenerating bodies–Baselitz's painted and drawn marks vibrate with their own painterly and graphic life. This paradoxical effect is testament to the artist's exceptional skills and inventiveness, as well as to his fearless determination to grapple with the problem of mortality–his own and that of his loved ones.
Georg Baselitz lives and works near Salzburg, Austria; at lake Ammersee, Germany; and in Imperia, Italy. He has exhibited widely, including solo shows at Centre Pompidou, Musée national d'art moderne, Paris (2021); Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice (2019); Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Switzerland, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington (2018); Städel Museum, Frankfurt (2016–17, travelling); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2014); Franz Marc Museum, Kochel am See, Germany (2014); Musée d'art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2011 and 1996); Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister der Staatlichen Kunstsammlung Dresden, Germany (2009); Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2009); Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina, Naples (2008); Royal Academy of Arts, London (2007); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebaek, Denmark (2006); and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1995, travelling). Significant group exhibitions include Baselitz, Richter, Polke, Kiefer – The Early Years of the Old Masters, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany (2019, travelling); the 56th and 52nd Venice Biennale (2015, 2007); Germany Divided, Baselitz and His Generation from the Duerckheim Collection, British Museum, London (2014); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1995, 1988, 1985); The Romantic Spirit in German Art 1970–1990, Royal Scottish Academy and the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (1994, travelling); Bilderstreit, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (1989); and Documenta 7 and 5, Kassel, Germany (1982, 1972).
Press release courtesy White Cube.