Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Art of Two Germanys" at LACMA


"Art of Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures" is the slam dunk you'd expect from Stephanie Barron. A bonus is that it rehabilitates the problematic(?) second level of BCAM.
A year ago, everybody was praising the silvery L.A. light in Renzo Piano's top floor. It still holds Broad's bluest chips. The ground level had the two big Serras (not going anywhere soon — not in this economy). The second level was less stunning architecturally and a mixed bag artistically. "Two Germanys" looks like it was made for the second floor, and vice-versa. The counter-clockwise circuit respects chronology and thumbs its nose at East-West.
• Barron's show has tons of great artists you've never heard of and will want to know more about. High among them are Hermann Glöckner, who made tiny sculptures out of practically nothing; Konrad Klapheck, a machine-obsessed precisionist; Werner Tübke, a social critic/fantasist in the earnest, Paul Cadmus tempera mode.
• East German Socialist Realism is fascinating historically and still unconvincing aesthetically. (I'm glad the show included it, though.)
• There's less Joseph Beuys than you'd expect. In 2006 Eli Broad bought a near-complete set of Beuys multiples, 570 pieces. I had supposed this show would showcase the trove. Nope. Only one Broad piece (Sled) is on view. It joins LACMA's felt suit and a few loans in a single room.
• Broad lent the show's best Anselm Kiefer, Germany's Spiritual Heroes, from 1973.
• A. R. Penck comes off better than I'd expected (pictured above, World View).
• Not too surprisingly, Gerhard Richter owns the show. This is without much curatorial special pleading. The two best paintings are smallish grisailles, Richter's Nazi Uncle Rudi and the eagle.

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