Poetry Challenge: Men Without Women

In addition to being an artist, Markus Lüpertz was a poet. Throughout the exhibition, share your Lüpertz-inspired poems with us to win prizes. Every other week, we’ll issue a new poetry challenge based on images or themes in the exhibition for fresh inspiration and chances to win.

Männer ohne Frauen. Parsifal (Men without Women: Parsifal), 1993. Oil and tempera on cardboard, 33 x 20 1/2 in. Private collection

THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE:
Create a haiku describing what you see in Lüpertz’s Männer ohne Frauen. Parsifal (Men without Women: Parsifal). A traditional haiku is a three-line poem with seventeen syllables, written in a 5/7/5 syllable count.

THIS WEEK’S PRIZE: Exhibition Prize Package (exhibition catalogue and other goodies from the museum shop)

TO ENTER: Leave your poem in the comments here, or share on social media with #LupertzPoem. We’ll select winners on Friday, August 4.

10 questions and 10 answers by Markus Lüpertz

I. Why do you paint?
I can feel the pressure of the thumb from on high. That leads to a disruption, a defect. And in the same way that the wounded oyster gives birth to the beautiful pearl, this pressure forces me to paint.

II. What do you want from painting?
Painting is culture, and who says culture says substance of the world. Painting provides the vocabulary to make the world visible.

III. What is painting?
Painting plummets the divine into perceptibility, by means of the eye — it sees the times, it is abstract thought and makes us conceive worlds and inter-worlds.

Markus Lüpertz. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

IV. What does abstract mean?
The manner of looking at, and of working with, my disruption, my defect. Abstraction is the result of the artist’s egotism. There are only abstract paintings. Painting is an abstract product, and it is only through the viewer that it tells a story. (Painting does not educate the person looking at it, it does not provide lessons, but it takes the viewer seriously and ennobles him by assuming an intellectually emancipated world.)

V. Is painting necessary?
Without painting the world is only consumed, it is not perceived.

VI. Can painting be learned?
No! Without congenital infirmity, it does not work. But through assiduous work, one can achieve a great deal and, by dint of what one accomplishes, approach great painting.

VII. Can the painter fail?
Yes, because it takes a great deal of discipline to see through to the end what one needs to do. For new painting is always born out of dissatisfaction with the previous one.

Installation view of the Markus Lüpertz exhibition at the Phillips. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

VIII. What is the painter’s success?
Influence over the period. Respect from his competitors. His own endless energy.

IX. What is the painter’s situation in society?
He is the cultural conscience of his times. The more a period allows great painters to exist, the more civilized it is.

X. Does painting today have a relationship with religion?
Painting is godless! When spirits and God played a part in painting, it was taboo. Today, during the twilight of the gods, it is the light, emphatic and absolutist, in conflict with a blindness that is overtaking the whole world.

Artistic Style (or Absence of)

Installation view of Markus Lüpertz at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Lee Stalsworth

The current exhibition at the Phillips is likely the first encounter many visitors have had with Markus Lüpertz’s work. There are a variety of reasons why Lüpertz has remained relatively unknown in the US to this day. Like his contemporaries, Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer, Jörg Immendorf, and A.R. Penck, Lüpertz’s importance in the German art world has been recognized for decades. Yet, while many of those artists have had major US exhibitions and retrospectives, Lüpertz has yet to break through to American audiences. In many ways, this is a product of Lüpertz’s prodigiousness and the range of his styles, subjects, and approach to art. Kiefer and Baselitz, for example, have both largely maintained a specific style and approach to their art that makes for a more easily digestible viewing experience: one tends to be able to recognize a Kiefer as a Kiefer immediately. Lüpertz went a different route. He’ll offer primitivistic, mask-like faces in one work and faceless, statue-like figures in another. Some works appear totally abstract; others are rife with recognizable objects and imagery. Thus, in place of Kiefer’s ashen, morose surfaces and Baselitz’s upside down, dissolving bodies, Lüpertz, the Unknown Great of German Postwar Art, gives colors, objects, forms—sometimes expressive and evocative and other times withdrawn and unyielding.

Max Rosenberg, 2016-17 UMD-Phillips Collection Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art