Retrospective: Günter Tollmann at Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen

Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen

December 22, 2011

27 November 2011–22 January 2012
Closed 24 December 2011–1 January 2012

Curated by Leane Schäfer and Gottfried Tollmann

Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen
Horster Strasse 5–7, 45897 Gelsenkirchen
NRW, Germany
Tuesday–Sunday 11:00–18:00
Closed Mondays
Free Entrance

T +49 209 169 4361

The Kunstmuseum Gelsenkirchen presents the first comprehensive retrospective of the work of Günter Tollmann (1926–1990). Ever since Tollmann had been a prisoner-of-war in France as an adolescent, he fell in love with the country, and divided his time between Paris and Gelsenkirchen until the end of his life, allowing him access to a range of post-war artistic movements in both Germany and France.

Having absorbed the artistic traditions, languages of both countries, Tollmann’s work as an Informel painter posed a synthesis of the spatial innovations of the School of Paris and the emotional component at the heart of German Expressionism. This synthesis incorporated the Informel idea that a painting was a constituent of reality rather than a representation of reality i.e. a painting was real, rather than a fictive rendering of something else that was real. A painting therefore could still refer to other criteria: it could be expressive, for example, without aspiring to refer only to itself, and without being a representation of reality in the mimetic sense. Tollmann’s paintings would alternate between the “pure” abstraction of Informel and the additional figurative element of Art Autre, which is to say a two-dimensional figure or figure group against a polydimensional Informel background. Since the figures were unfilled and two-dimensional, their environment would show “through” them. The polydimensional surface that was distinct from the figure therefore often would seem to oscillate between background and foreground.

He, and other Informel and Abstract Expressionist artists advanced these spatial potentials in ways that continue to inform gestural abstraction: ambiguities of scale analogy; multiple perspectives; push-pull depth disorientation; tensions between various gravitational directions of the pigment; layering, pentimento, and palimpsest effects; bleeding effects; empty volumes that conflate transitions between diverse fields; fictive light and shade—in short, a spatial universe wholly contrived by the artist that generates multiple tensions between its constituents.

But no matter how spontaneous were Tollmann’s formal choices, invariably they retain an emotional component. The entire formal scheme of a painting contributed to its emotional effect by virtue of what Hofmann called the “symphonic animation of the picture plane,” its “movements and counter-movements.”

The retrospective also offers a panorama of Tollmann’s kinetic sculpture that applies several of the ideas in his paintings to a three-dimensional medium, extends the Constructivist ideal of space without mass, and reveals numerous variations of the metonym of his oeuvre: three joined cylinders.

Under the general editorship of Rainer Norten, a catalog of the exhibition, Günter Tollmann, has been published by Hirmer Verlag, with texts by Drew Hammond, Alexander Klar, and Dieter Ronte.