‘I paint networked versions of the great drama of the figure in space, an indestructible, essentially organic constellation exposed to extreme deformation. Depicting this deformation automatically generates new figurations, but it also generates a new form of abstraction, in the colloquial sense of that word’ (A. Butzer in conversation with B. Rei, April 2006, http:/www.undo.net/it/mostra/57409).
Executed in 2006, André Butzer’s Ahnenbild 2411 presents a monumentally-scaled, mural-like explosion of colour and form. Loosely translated as ‘Ancestral Portrait’, Ahnenbild pays homage to Butzer’s wide-ranging art historical influences – most notably Edvard Munch, whose famous screaming figure is echoed in the hollow-eyed masks that populate Butzer’s canvas. Across the work’s pulsating surface, the raw, graphic impulse of Jean- Michel Basquiat combines with the colourful gestures of Willem de Kooning and the piercing psycho-dramas of German Expressionism. Updating these lexicons for the contemporary age through his own anarchic visual codes, Butzer creates a psychedelic tableau – a grotesque, chaotic universe whose cartoon-like characters conspire to form a nightmarish apocalyptic vision. Treading the boundary between figuration and abstraction, the work invokes the aesthetics of graffiti and art brut as well as what Butzer has termed a kind of ‘science-fiction Expressionism’. For Butzer, these heady stylistic fusions are brought together through his strong chromatic sensibility. ‘Colour is basically about history’, the artist explains. ‘To animate colour is historic in the way that the image will tell us about the future and the past.