Installing an Exhibition with Markus Lüpertz

Markus Lüpertz with Phillips director and exhibition curator Dorothy Kosinski. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

We interviewed Phillips director and Markus Lüpertz exhibition curator Dorothy Kosinski about her recent time working with the artist to install the exhibition:

I’m excited to be able to share my recent experience with Markus Lüpertz as I worked with him to install the exhibition. It was a truly exhilarating experience to have the opportunity to get inside the artist’s head. It was fascinating to me, an art historian, who thinks in terms of progression and chronological orders, that none of that was important for Markus Lüpertz. In fact, to the contrary, he wandered through the gallery once, twice, three times, and changed the position of every object in the show. As he said to me, he was looking for an optical order. It had to do with robust juxtapositions of colors, of shapes, of small canvases and big canvases. So, contrary to most exhibits in the Phillips, or in most museums, the visitor, my dear, will be disappointed if you’re looking for the early works, the middle works, and the late works. Instead, you can go in any direction in this exhibit because he deliberately intermixes all of the works from those five decades of his very rich career.

So you might then ask, why? Is he trying to provoke us? Surely, but it is also an installation methodology that reflects his fundamental aesthetic philosophy. He and I were talking about this during his visit; his work is never about a style. A lot of people in the contemporary art world could say, “Aha! That’s a Kiefer,” or “Aha! That’s a Baselitz.” Their works are wonderful, he was quick to point out, but they’re very recognizable. As you walk through our galleries, you’ll see it’s not about a style, it’s not about consistency, it’s not about a kind of consistent progression. It’s surely teasing us, challenging us to think about, “what is this object?”

Lüpertz is trying to bring us forward, allow us a way of seeing our world. He said every time he paints a painting, he’s starting from the beginning, and by that he was talking about starting from the sort of infancy of his artistic practice, that every time he paints a painting it’s a voyage of discovery. He is never satisfied, he is returning again and again often to the same subjects, it’s a serious and eternal challenge that he grasps every time he takes paintbrush to canvas. I’m willing to bet that before the end of this exhibit, we get comments from our visitors about the lighting. “You forgot to light the canvases!” And I want to assure everyone that, again, this is the desire and direction of the artist himself. He moved those light canisters with his silver-tipped cane, trying to give us a sense of the quality of light that he desired. Not spotlighting the canvases but rather illuminating the wall around the canvases so that the canvas had a kind of even light, rather than a kind of artificial drama, and as you’ll see, the works in the show are filled with drama. They’re dramatic enough that we don’t have to try to stage them, and I think that that’s his point.

Dorothy Kosinski, Phillips Director and curator of Markus Lüpertz

Raise/Raze at the Dupont Underground

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Detail of Raise/Raze, the winning project proposal for the Dupont Underground’s installation contest. Photo: Lauren Griffin

Walking down the steps past a metal door with a padlock to view Phillips partner Dupont Underground‘s first art installation, Raise/Razefeels a bit delinquent. It was hard to temper my excitement at being in a space which at first glance, appears be forbidden. The tunnels still hold trolley tracks and street signs. There are artifacts of the years the space sat abandoned, including graffiti and dripping water. The original designs for the installation included covering the walls completely in a uniform white, but I appreciate seeing these reminders of the tunnel’s past. They underscore the perfect, manufactured luminescence of the re-purposed balls. The effect is the appearance of a pixelated, digital growth in an organic space. I overheard more than one comparison to Minecraft.

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Installation view of Raise/Raze. Photo: Amy Wike

More so than other submitted designs, Hou de Sousa‘s proposal truly transforms the material. In their original installation in The Beach, the balls were a mass that one could sink into and be surrounded by. They moved as a liquid, moving force. Here, in Raise/Raze, the balls function as a solid mass, capable of sustaining form and inspiring manipulation. Hou de Sousa takes the balls from a material that must be swum through and struggled against into a material to work with constructively.

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Installation view of Raise/Raze. Photo: Lauren Griffin

I also appreciate how there are pre-constructed areas to explore and create additions to. It can be difficult to be presented with a blank slate, and by providing three pre-made areas that include a maze, open space with constructed boulders, and stalactite towers, the space gives just enough structure for creative exploration. I look forward to seeing what each wave of visitors comes up with each day, and to see them documented on social media.

Lauren Griffin, Contemporary Curatorial Intern

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Installation view of Raise/Raze. Photo: Amy Wike

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Installation view of Raise/Raze. Photo: Lauren Griffin

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Installation view of Raise/Raze. Photo: Lauren Griffin

Installing Acts of Silence

Of her installation at the Phillips, Acts of Silence, and how it speaks to the work by Morris Graves on view in the same galleries, Helen Frederick says: “Much of this came from traveling to California, where for the first time I saw the redwoods; and just the evolution of the plant life and the bird life, and those great massive trees and the shadows cast by the trees . . . the muffled sounds from the ocean . . . [these] allow me to understand why Morris Graves found this environment where he wanted to be for the last years of his life.”