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Walter Swennen in From Gerhard Richter to Mary Heilmann

3 February—28 April 2024
Kunst Museum Winterthur, Winterthur, Switzerland

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In the art of the 1980s, the formal achievements of the historical avant-garde became a readily available stockpile of forms that could be copied, varied, or referenced. In this context that relativizes all traditions, one-dimensional artistic stances began to dissolve, opening unforeseen possibilities especially in painting. Initially difficult to identify, the painterly positions, which are not limited to revising or resuming historical styles but are instead expressed as a sort of in-between, linked the autonomous visual language of historical abstraction with reality, ultimately reconciling the avant-garde with the present. In an exemplary manner, artists such as Mary Heilmann countered this “withdrawal from painting” with independent works that eluded both the authoritarian aspirations of modernism and the unambiguous attribution of forms. That is also what Gerhard Richter stands for; he uses both traditions of figuration and idioms of abstraction in his work.

With series by Gerhard Richter, David Reed, and Pia Fried, the Kunst Museum Winterthur has at its disposal artistic approaches that have expanded the possibilities of abstract painting in recent years. For the exhibition From Gerhard Richter to Mary Heilmann: Abstract Art from Private Collections and the Museum’s Holdings, these will be shown in dialogue with exceptional paintings from private collections, including works by Jack Whitten, Bernard Frize, Jonathan Lasker, and Katharina Grosse. These artists have substantially influenced painting since the 1990s and they continue to do so today.

The exhibition will be supplemented with sculptural interventions by the American artist Michael E. Smith.