George Baselitz' Upside Down World
In the 1960s, Georg Baselitz decided to invert his paintings as a symbol of his non-conformity and rebelliousness.
A simple gesture can, at times, herald a revolution. Jackson Pollock liberated the canvas from the stretcher and, aided by gravity, spread it on the ground to paint. Some time later, Lucio Fontana brandished a stiletto to pierce the surface of a painting and opened a wound through which it still bleeds today. All gestures that represented a change in paradigm and that fostered a revision of inherited artistic models, in other words, conventions.
Georg Baselitz’ case is paradigmatic. His gesture, which has a strong symbolic content, was to invert his paintings. This is how the German artist tried to question the statutes of the image, and question our way of seeing, while simultaneously he destroyed the basic presuppositions of his discipline.
Georg Baselitz is the prototype of the artist provocateur. Raised in the embers of the Second World War, he was the heir of the freest forms of German expressionism, considered “degenerate art” by the Third Reich. As an art student in East Berlin, the painter had to confront the uniformity of communist thought that extolled socialist realism as the only form of representation. Incapable of adhering to its postulates, being accused of “sociopolitical immaturity” young Baselitz was expelled from the academy. In 1958 he moved to the western sector and, to honor his homeland, he changed his original name, Georg Kern, for the one that we all know today. Perhaps another gesture by a discontented artist that today, past the age of seventy, continues to give us something to talk about.
Baselitz’s work lucidly survived the demolishing current of conceptual art, whose postulates precisely emphasized the death of painting. Aware that art is something that mainly concerns artists, those madmen devoted to interrupting the normal flow of events; to “going against”, as he said once, he continued to paint. Today, when conceptual art gives unmistakable signs of ferropenic anemia, Baselitz painting seems to recover its power of insubordination. His paintings continue to be born upside down, a gesture that, having been maintained for over three decades, has acquired the consistency of an unbreakable stance before the world.
The artist is not responsible to anyone. His social role is asocial, except for the fact that this is bothersome. His only responsibility consists in an attitude to the work he does. That is how rebelliousness remains.
1. Volkstanz Marode (1989) / Collection: Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
2. Wo ist der gelbe Milchkrug, Frau Vogel? (1989) / Collection: Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
3. Von Vorne (1986) / Collection: Tate / National Galleries of Scotland
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