This show took place in the Rodeo Gallery in London in 2015, not long after Sylvia Kouvali folded her tents in İstanbul. İt consisted of all my works on paper, from 1977 to 2014, which until then I had kept strictly to myself and came to be exposed to public scrutiny for the first time. The design of the display cases, the frames, the invitation card , as well as the press release were all of my confection. The hanging was done by Sylvia Kouvali. The display units were copied from the Postahane Müzesi, Eminönü, İstanbul.
This exhibition puts a portfolio of works on display which have never been shown before. It has been produced and assembled over a timespan of thirty seven years in different countries, even continents, and a great variety of locations and situations, ranging from homelessness to strutting the marble floors of once revered institutions called “Akademie der Bildenden Künste”. Considering the travails and perils of both portfolio and artist, we must say that, despite its fragile materials, it is supremely preserved. Meaning they have been, like salt and pepper, inseparable. So why this separation now..?
The reasons can be summarized as follows : 1. A totally unstable political situation in İstanbul, in the wake of the Gezi uprising, shattering any sense of security, endangering the safekeeping of Lukas Duwenhögger’s archives and turning the spectre of deportation into a real possibility. 2. The bitter need to sell 3. The enthusiasm of Slyvia Kouvali when he let her in on the secret. 4. A new interest in the trial-periods of established artists, if not an appraisal of hitherto neglected artists alltogether. This felicitous development allowed an individual artist to reassess her ‘sins of youth’ as well, as long as she had not destroyed them in the mistaken - often inflicted - conviction that they would represent an embarrassing corrective to that picture of pristine, ‘manifest destiny’- accomplishment we so often are complicit in shaping. Even so the dispersal of that carefully guarded cache for financial and security reasons was a regrettable occurence, “Made In Hot Weather” remains a splendid exercise in the art of hanging and framing, an art undervalued - like translation - if not entirely overlooked as an afterthought to the ‘thing that can speak for itself’. Pictures don’t exist independent from their display - they need tending, like gardens.
Lukas Duwenhögger considers Walter Abish’s How German Is It (1981) to be the best literary portraiture of post WWII Germany. The influences that this portfolio contains begin then: in a deeply polarized and truculent society, constipated with repression,denial,and bigotry. The social climbers of the moment tried to emulate the defunct elegance of the killed and gone, either by appropriating their collections or by aspiring to a hurried and selfserving cosmopolitanism through ratified imports of the modernity they had transformed into a death-industry. So what was on those walls? The frolicsome Picasso, the poetic Klee, the modest Morandi … locked in suburbia. Ernst Wilhelm Nay and Emil Nolde became Germany’s Matisse and Soutine. And a couple of years later: Gerhard Richter and black leather, Allen Jones and black leather, Andy Warhol and black leather. But where did you belong?
The question of school; of affiliation; of the figure in the carpet; of readability, your readability. The inscrutability of the master, instead, was a result of a militaristic mindset that even pervaded any aspect of education and aesthetic culture : the belief that you must be ‘broken’ before you can arise to articulation, independence and creativity. Did you admire someone or something to the point of self-effacement, pledge yourself unequivocally to a cause, whether guerilla warfare, or becoming a famous artist? And if artists, were you helping to decorate the bedrooms of weapons’ producers? And if guerilla : no matter how unshakable you thought your willingness and devotion were, they would stare through you with their roentgen-eyes, detecting your bourgie-bourgie softness and presumed cowardice. And dismiss you in a hail-storm of derision.
At your aunt’s fashion house, you could probably rejoice in a Fragonard, a Carl Spitzweg or an Adolf Menzel; but instictively you grasped that these kinds of pleasures were better kept out of sight, or you were going to be in hell’s kitchen.
Not to mention your vitrine decorations.
Antagonisms. Anachronisms. Solitary experiments - remote and blissful : these forces often combine in a state of languishing, which our selective memory tends to brush aside. They belong to the twilight ; they shy away from the exposure and glare of the classrooms and their attendant victories. The avoidance, not of supportive scrutiny, but of biased intrusion and manipulation, often is taken as a sign of fear, a lack of strength, resolve and brightness. Instead it may well be a refusal to submit to a system of domination. Illitiracy doesn’t mean you cannot dance. And you may dance for yourself as well.
Willa Cather, another writer cherished by Lukas Duwenhögger, replied to the question of what she thought was most detrimental to her creativity : “The Lecture-bug!” ; meaning the danger to get puffed up and self-important through teaching. Bruce La Bruce called his autobiography The Reluctant Pornographer. In Lukas Duwenhögger’s case The Reluctant Autodidact would come pretty close. Devotion to the master and eviction from the master-class.
Influences : Lukas Duwenhögger’s encounter with Hannah Höch in 1971, at the first comprehensive survey of her work in Berlin is obvious in his collages. And what about your children’s books ? Does their magic ever leave you ? Or advertising ? If you happen to be familiar with the work of Leo Lionni, Leonore Gaul, Laurent de Brunhoff, Roger Duvoisin, amongst many others, you could see easily lingering traces of their magnificent achievements in Duwenhögger’s works. And advertising ? The graphic enticements of a guilty adult world ; a boy - passenger on his way to school, at sunrise, driving by billboards designed by Pavel Michael Engelmann for Roth Händle cigarettes or by Gerd Grimm for Reval (also cigarettes) or by René Gruau for Eau Sauvage (perfume) will be unlikely to forget it. Toulouse Lautrec is always around the corner and his veneration of Matisse surfaces in ‘Premiata’, where a found print of Icarus is put to stunning use, his heart becoming the eye of an owl watching over the nightshift activities in the famed patisserie.
A wider, if not all inclusive frame of legitimate references is surely one of the great legacies of postmodernism but it all too often tends to obscure that dogmatic strictures, if not cencorship altogether, in not-so-long-ago-times, far from causing only uniform misery could have had the unintended result of generating specific formal vocabularies which under less restricted circumstances would not have developed. In a more permissive world, influences can become references, and references can become a system of exploitation and self-centered consumerism,like, ‘what books are on your night table right now ?’ The considerable merits of a limited access to information disappear from view. That does not mean that the hanging of homos or stoning of women are inspiring, neither does it mean to comply with the noxious notion of inner exile à la Wilhelm Furtwängler. But it can mean that untold numbers of children whiplashed by their sublimating parents into a conformist literacy end up broken and frustrated, their genuine talents damaged beyond repair.
Especially collages are, above all, the acknowledgement that we are not in control of the world, but that the world guides us ; that there is nothing knew except when we come up with new constellations and combinations. They not only carry the potential to fuse the artist with the banal materiality of the culture surrounding her - its waste - but relieve her from the burden of the brush and its cumbersome economy.
And the books of Saul Steinberg, and the record covers of the Modern Jazz Quartett, and, and, and … these bits and pieces were little welcomes in the windswept places of a curious tramp.
The question of finish.
In Duwenhögger’s later oilpaintings, the heritage of Picasso’s dictum that “a finished painting is a dead painting”, or call it the İngres – Delacroix debate, is confronted. Here finish goes with officialdom, power, respectablity, the res publica and its discontents ; the Nazis turning the ‘ sorrow of completion’ into icy polish and gloss. The Nazis - laughable and terrifying masters of finish, subsequently preempting any approach to the problem, tainting it with their poison. The surge of the sketch as a token of democracy, the expressionistic gesture, the rough, the tentative, the open, the innocent, the personal, but ultimately the private in its isolation from public matters, ( and what kind of privacy ?), come here under investigation. Another turn of the screw ? A liberation becoming domination once again ?
These oilpaintings are built on an idea of monumentality which his works shown here never have intented. If his works on paper, made in hot weather, were never intended to enter the public domain, now they do.
This show is a novelty because Lukas Duwenhögger shows us his vagabond, his gypsy side for the first time and we are glad that we are given the chance.
This text, originally a collaboration inbetween me and Sylvia Kouvali, has been revised, completed, and edited by me in İstanbul 22.03.2022
" Ancient Trade ", collage on paper, 42.6 x 29.2 cm, artist's frame, 1982, courtesy Gallerie Buchholz
" Tense Honeymoon ", collage on paper, 41.5 x 29.5 cm, artist's frame, 1982, courtesy Gallerie Buchholz
"Fishing for Compliments", pencil and watercolour on paper, private collection
"Close to Egeria", watercolour on paper, courtesy of the artist
"Cul de Sac at Night", watercolour on paper, private collection
Clockwise from left "Study for Abandoned Post-Modern Landscape, Adonis Triangle, Study for Abandoned Post-Modern Landscape, Pastoral, Study for Abandoned Post-Modern Landscape, Not Homeless", all pencil and watercolour on paper
Clockwise from left all of them "Study for Abandoned Post-Modern Landscape", watercolour on paper
" Sunbather in Ascent ", collage on paper, 39 x 26 cm, artist's frame, 1982, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Night Shift at Prematia ", collage on paper, 58 x 45.5 cm , artist's frame, 1982-1983, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Gaz ", collage on paper, 42.5 x 29.8 cm, artist's frame, 1979, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Empress ", collage on paper, 42.5 x 29.5 cm, artist's frame, 1979, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Can Egypt Have Democracy ", collage on Sotheby advertisement , 27.9 x 22.7 cm, 2013, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" The Golden Boy ", collage on photocopy, 42 x 29.6 cm, 1980, artist's frame, courtesy of Charlie Fox
" Circus at Night ", collage on paper, 44.1 x 31.2 cm, artist's frame, 1982, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Circus Matinee ", collage on paper, 42 x 29.6 cm, artist's frame, 1982, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" The Avenger ", collage on paper, 30.8 x 19.4 cm, artist's frame, 1977, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Factories ", collage and enamel on paper, 42 x 29.6 cm, artist's frame, 1980, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Nourishing Composition ", collage on paper, 42.4 x 29.1 cm, artist's frame, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
" Forget Me Not ", collage on paper, 42 x 29.6 cm, artist's frame, courtesy of Galerie Buchholz
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