Günther Förg (1952-2013)
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Günther Förg (1952-2013)

Untitled

Details
Günther Förg (1952-2013)
Untitled

acrylic and lead on wood
94½ x 63 x 2½in. (240 x 160 x 6.2cm.)
Executed in 1988
Provenance
Private Collection, Italy.
Acquired from the above, thence by descent to the present owner.
Exhibited
Newport Beach, Newport Harbour Museum, Günther Förg: Painting/Sculpture/Installation, 1989, no. 174/88 (illustrated in colour, p. 56). This exhibition later travelled to San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Museum.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
Post lot text
This work is recorded in the archives of Günther Förg as No. WVF.88.B.0376.
We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Neff from the Estate of Günther Förg for the information he has kindly provided.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

Executed on a monumental scale, stretching over two metres in height, Untitled is a rich and resonant lead painting by Günther Förg. Created in 1994, it exemplifies the exploration of relationships between artwork, object, material and form which have fascinated the artist throughout his career. A large, weathered swathe of raw lead dominates the composition, interrupted by a single panel of pale green in the upper right-hand corner. Initiated in the 1980s, Förg’s lead paintings investigate the properties of his volatile medium when placed in dialogue with flat layers of paint. ‘I like very much the qualities of lead – the surface, the heaviness,’ Förg explains; ‘it gives the colour a different density and weight ... with the normal canvas you often have to kill the ground, give it something to react against. With the metals you already have something - its scratches, scrapes’ (G. Förg, quoted in D. Ryan, Talking Painting, Karlsruhe 1997, http:/ www.david-ryan.co.uk/Gunther0Forg). Oxidised naturally by the elements, the lead generates its own abstract depths, streaked with iridescent patterns whose instabilities work in lively counterpoint with the imposed geometry of Förg’s paintwork.

Despite their transcendental allusions to the natural world, works such as Untitled ultimately refuse any metaphysical claim. Förg consciously distanced himself from the near-spiritual aesthetic espoused by the American Abstract Expressionists, explaining that ‘Newman and Rothko attempted to rehabilitate in their works a unity and an order that for them had been lost ... For me, abstract art today is what one sees and nothing more’ (G. Förg, quoted in Günther Förg: Painting / Sculpture / Installation, exh. cat. Newport Beach, 1989, p. 6). Operating in critical dialogue with his modernist forebears, Förg believed that abstraction was no longer a language that needed to be defended, sublimated and theorised; rather, it had become one mode of picture-making among many others. As Andreas Schlaegel observes, ‘The evolution of his direct, subjective engagement with the aesthetic of the sublime – conducted without the fear of stereotypical taboos – oscillates between appropriation and homage, yet Förg does so without ironic quotations or other such cheap distancing techniques. Instead, he throws mythical ballast overboard and appropriates picture-making strategies in a way that makes them look new’ (A. Schlaegel, quoted in B. Weber, ‘Günther Förg, German Artist Who Made Modernism His Theme, Dies at 61’, New York Times, 18 December 2013). The weighty materiality of the lead amplifies this departure, underscoring the poetic play of surface and depth that has long stood at the heart of the artist’s multidisciplinary oeuvre. In the swirling, inscrutable depths of Untitled, Förg frees abstraction from its historical baggage, reconfiguring the picture plane as an unburdened zone of elemental power.

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