Friday, June 29, 2012

Käthe Kollwitz Museum, Berlin

John and I found the Kollwitz Museum in a 19th century residential home on elegant Fasanenstrasse in the Kufürstendamm neighbourhood of Berlin.
The first floor zeroed in on letters, books and prints by the famous artist but it was on the third floor that we found what we were hoping to see - drawings and sculptures by Kollwitz.
I especially loved her charcoal drawings. Such powerful and emotional marks!
John liked this small relief sculpture in bronze.
After visiting the Kollwitz collection, we stepped into the rear sculpture garden
which featured one of David Smith's kinetic Cubis series sculptures in stainless steel.
I love how the burnished surfaces of the moving metal rectangles reflected the garden and sky in the garden.
We slipped out of the sculpure garden into the grounds of the Literaturhaus next door in hopes of getting a table at their highly praised cafe
but the well-heeled locals had already arrived for their lunch.
Soon we found ourselves back on Kufürstendamm, the ritzy Parisian-looking shopping street for high-priced boutiques.
We loved the signage along the way as we headed for the closest subway entrance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hamburger Bahnhof 1: Five Modern Artists

John and I had the pleasure of visiting one of Berlin's best contemporary art venues, the Hamburger Bahnhof, opened in 1996 in a fantastic refurbished railroad station originally built in 1848.
Here's John entering the front door past Anselm Kiefer's wooden sculpture, Folk  Thing Zero, 1987. That's one of Dan Flavin's neon installations between the arches above him.
The entrance hall and ticket booth showcase the old railroad station structure. Take our advice -- this is a big place with a large permanent collection as well as major changing exhibitions -- if you want to see everything, you'll need two visits.
We started with the permanent collection of 5 major modern artists. They have Roy Lichenstein's Reflections on the "Artist's Studio", 1989,
and Imperfect Painting, 1983.
I loved the rooms of Andy Warhol paintings
like Ten-Foot Flowers, 1967.
Here's John in front of a huge Warhol Mao, 1973
 and here in front of Cow, 1971, and Hammer and Sickle, 1976.
We're both big fans of the work of Cy Twombly. This is Thyrsis, 1977.
And these are John's details of the painting. We love Twombly's script.
Mr Twombly was apparently a big fan of the work of French artist, Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). In fact he said he would have liked to have been Poussin. This is Poussin's The Victory of Joshua over the Amalekites, c. 1630.
Here's John in front of one of Twombly's works inspired by Poussin, School of Fontainbleau, 1960. I think the influence may be truly understood only by Mr Twombly but I love the results.
Another room was devoted to the work of the contemporary German master, Anselm Kiefer. Here we see his sculpture of a warplane, Hoffmann von Hallersleben aug Helgoland,1983/1987 and behind that, Lilith am Roten Meer, 1990.
Mohn und Gedächtnis, 1989. Mr Kiefer often uses unusual materials in his paintings like soot and tar. We wonder if he influenced one of our favourite Canadian artists, Attila Richard Lukacs, who worked in Berlin for several years and uses similar elements.
Here's John entering the rooms of the neon sculpture of Dan Flavin, a major minimalist artist of the 1970's.
 In 1996, Dan Flavin was commissioned to make an installation, Untitled, for the opening of the Hamburger Bahnhof in blue and green neon.
The installation appears throughout the permanent collection and on the front of the building.
There are also earlier pieces like Untitled (to you Leo in long respect and affection) 3, 1978.
So beautiful.

Hamburger Bahnhof 2: Joseph Beuys Collection

The Hamburger Bahnhof has an extensive collection of the work of Joseph Beuys.
Beuys is considered one of the leading innovators of the 20th Century. John and I are curious about him, and I saw a tremendous show of his at the Guggenheim in NYC decades ago, but we've never really "gotten" him.
But who can resist his Unschlitt/Tallow, 1977? He filled an ugly, concrete underpass with tallow to heal the space and then cut the moulded fat into six pieces which he presents to us here as sculpture.
Wax and felt are favourite mediums. It's all related to a mythic "real" event in which  nomads saved his life after a plane crash by wrapping him in felt. This is Untitled, or PLIGHT, 1885.
John had a look inside the case for Hasengrab (Hare Grave), 1964-1979.
Intriguing, eh? We look at this and see Sarah Sze's work though we know Beuys comes first.
This young woman is watching a video of one of Beuys' performances. In it he covered his head in gold leaf and wandered about the space with a dead rabbit.
For How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare, 1965, Beuys assumes his role as teacher/shaman.
John and I left the collection of his work with our usual bemused bafflement but the work has stayed with me. Great to see such a good selection. This is Das Ende des 20, Jahrhunderts, 1983. By the way, thats another of Dan Flavin's neon installations by the windows here.

Hamburger Bahnhof 3: Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture

One of the highlights to our visit to the Hamburger Hahnhof was a special exhibition of the light sculpture of Anthony McCall
Indeed when you enter the space it seems utterly black but soon you see the beams of light. John and I walked in to see a professional photographer posing his subject in the light.
Our eyes had to adjust again when we walked into into the huge adjoining space.
The huge space of the refurbished old railroad shed is perfect for this kind of artwork. People soon began to play with the light sculptures.
When we returned to the first room I shot this woman hesitating at the edge of the darkness.
John peered into the light beams to see what people were looking at.
The mist in the air is transformed by the cones of light into swirling tunnels. That's me at the top and John in the middle. Unforgettable!