Luxembourg & Dayan, London, is delighted to present Förg: from and against Modernism (with a response by Fischli & Weiss). The exhibition, developed in dialogue with artist Peter Fischli, presents a group of important lead paintings and a single wall painting by German artist Günther Förg (1952-2013), including one of the largest composite panel paintings that the artist ever produced (counting thirty-two panels and measuring more than sixteen feet wide). In response to Förg’s paintings, the show also includes a selection of photographs from Peter Fischli and David Weiss’ celebrated series of urban landscapes, Siedlungen / Agglomeration (1992).
From an early stage in his career, Günther Förg established himself as a critic of Modernism’s weighty legacy, dedicating his practice to the difficulty of producing art in its aftermath. Förg’s works from the mid 1970s onwards, particularly his wall paintings and compositions on lead panels, are characterised by large geometric colour surfaces applied as thin or washed layers of paint (in oil or acrylic). Their formal arrangement is reminiscent of a purist, modernist vocabulary that applies to the realm of painting as well as interior design, architecture and even urban planning, but questions the textured and gestural approach towards these realms that characterised Förg’s Modernist predecessors.
A number of conceptual and formal concerns in Förg’s practice overlap with those of his Swiss contemporaries Peter Fischli & David Weiss. Each in their own way is interested in architectural history and motivated by a sense of scepticism concerning the authority of the modernist grid and its restrictive legacy. However, while Förg is invested in an inquiry of modernism’s expression within the realm of so-called high art, Fischli and Weiss are known for their particular interest in the combination rearrangement, or otherwise manipulation of everyday objects and situations, transforming them into innovative and unexpected artefacts in a variety of media. In the case of their photographic series Siedlungen / Agglomeration from 1992, the Swiss duo set out to explore the common architectural and urban landscapes that formed Switzerland’s post-war suburb towns. Familiar yet anonymous, the large residential, commercial or municipal buildings that populate the post-war periphery reveal how Modernism’s pioneering ideas have been reinterpreted over time and reduced to mere templates for contractors and local authorities to follow.
The exhibition from and against Modernism reveals unexpected formal, as well as ideological, similarities between the works of Förg and those of Fischli & Weiss. Yet it also confronts us as viewers with the different forms in which their critique of Modernism’s legacy takes form. As such, the exhibition’s title too stands in opposition to the common, all-encompassing term ‘Post-modernism’, which assumes the termination of one historical period for the sake of an imagined, cohesive, and liberated aftermath.