Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Neue Galerie: Die Brücke

To prepare for my trip to Tübingen (and also because I love German Expressionism), I caught the Brücke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913 exhibition at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan. It's a fairly large two-floored space, housed in a gorgeous Classically-inspired building which includes a grandiose staircase and a good amount of marble. The exhibit took up the entire third floor and part of the second (the other rooms contain some Klimts and Kokoshkas along with several pieces of furniture and other objects). I have to say, I really enjoyed it. This is the largest collection of Expressionist art I've ever seen in one place, which I found very exciting. Everything is just so colourful and loose! It's like a fairytale, complete with the sinister undertone. Paintings were organized into several rooms by subject matter: urban scenes, landscapes, and figures.

Street, Dresden by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1906The urban room was pretty much just Kirchner, but that's ok, since his street scenes are fabulous. They even borrowed Street, Dresden from MoMA, one of my favourites of his.

Trees in Autumn by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1906Landscapes from the likes of Kirchner, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were featured. The latter two I didn't know very well before the show, but ended up liking both a lot.

Country House in Osterholm by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, 1906Much of Schmidt-Rottluff's work is very textured and abstracted. I just wanted to reach out and touch it.

March Snow by Max PechsteinPechstein's is more understated, but still plays with colour in interesting ways. His later pieces are more blocky and primitive, playing with thick outlines and simplified forms.

And here's Heckel's Landscape in Dresden, 1910. Love the spindly bridge.

Young Girl with Doll by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1911The figural room was the biggest and, of course, my favourite. Several large canvases of portraits and nude studies were presented around several pieces of sculpture in the middle of the room. Here we can see the effect of the all-male group's "muses", with several young women popping up multiple times as subjects. It all seems a very laid back, free-love commune type of situation.

Bowl of Oranges (Woman Peeling Oranges) by Max Pechstein, 1910Young Woman with a Red Fan by Max Pechstein, 1910Pechstein painted his wife Charlotte Krapolat often, along with various other women. I love the posing of these pieces, and the heaviness of her face. I am admittedly unsure if this particular model is his wife. I don't think it is.

Marzella (Franzi) by Kirchner, 1909-10Fränzi in front of Carved Chair by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910Meanwhile Kirchner became fixated with his lover Dodo and a 13-year-old girl named Fränzi. It's a little creepy to think about, but I still really like the paintings he did of her.

There were also some portraits by Heckel that I'll admit to not really liking, and some stunning large-scale full-body nudes by Kirchner that unfortunately I can't find pictures of. Schmidt-Rottluff's figural pieces were quite wonderful, heavily textured and puzzle-like, but I can't find pictures of them either, sadly. I wish more museums allowed photography.

A hallway and opposing narrow room showcased some woodblock prints and exhibition posters, along with photographs of each artist and short biographies. There were some excerpts from Kirchner's history of the group, Chronik, and their artistic manifesto, as well. Some timely German music played in the background, which I enjoyed a lot. The space was so small that it easily became overcrowded, though, which I found quite frustrating while trying to read about the different artists or puzzle through the German written on the prints. Lots of know-it-all senior citizens were there the day I went.

The lower floor had a room dedicated to crayon, pencil, and charcoal drawings. I always like to see the sketchier, unfinished works by artists who are primarily painters, so I found it quite interesting. It was oddly darkly lit, though.

Corner of a Park, by Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, 1910Overall I thought this exhibit was excellent. It was well-organized and very informative. I think it'd be hard to really mess up a Brücke show- their art is so exuberant and fun, how could anyone looking at it in any context not have a good time? I liked seeing so much of their work in one place, as I could get more of a feel for their group mentality of freedom in love, life, and art. I noticed an odd lack of Bleyl, Nolde, and Müller (in the paintings, anyway), but I'm not particularly into them so it wasn't a big deal for me personally.

Check out it out for yourself at the Neue Galerie, on view until June 29.

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