You have reached your destination Frankfurt MMK , The Frankfurt Museum für Moderne Kunst A Tale of Two Worlds a collaboration between the Frankfurt MMK and Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires showing a range art produced in Europe and the Americas between the 1940’s and 1980’s. Throughout the exhibition there are also numerous works from the United States, which seems like an additional world to me, appearing somewhat separate and detached from its southern counterpart. A case of Mauer im Kopf ? a cultural and economic wall between North and South America, the socio-politically divided continent, looking elsewhere, back to the old world of Europe each for differing reasons. A simple assertion but perhaps with some truth. A Europe coming to terms with the aftermath of two world wars, a conduit of virtual space for a modern world, offering pockets of empathy and cross fertilisation, evolving ideologies and creative processes which can be shared and developed. Elements of this accumulation can be found in this exhibition where diverse works with their varying degrees of connectivity sit or hang (out) together.
Tucked away in a darkened room and under glass is possibly where the beating heart of this exhibition resides. Despite the expressionistic architecture this is not the Cabinet of Dr Calligary which the murderous somnambulist Cesare but rather the cabinet of Marcel Duchamp , The Modern Art Super Hero. An assemblage various of Duchampion works downsized to the scale of a miniature art-world or gallery fit for any fortress of solitude .
Looking at the works on display such as Readymades L.H.O.O.Q and The Bride Stripped Bare you become aware of just how pivotal his role has been in influencing and shaping so much of 20th century art.
Throughout the exhibition works by other art superheroes of the 20th century appear; men of mythical status with the Midas touch, where everything they touch turns to Art. Beuys, Bacon, Lichtenstein, Johns and Warhol each have their wares spread throughout the building, milestones along a meandering journey, markers of a particular kind route, known yet unseen in the flesh in the here and now. Each work recognisable and renowned enough to stop you in your tracks and consider the pitfalls of seeking a modernist El Dorado. For me, the real adventure and treasures of this exhibition lie elsewhere, such as a room dedicated to Atre Madi, geometric abstraction in the raw. This artistic group formed in Buenos Aires between 1944-46 and it is work by two of its founder members Carmelo Arden Quin and German born Martin Blaszko that stand out here. Blasko left Europe for Argentina in 1939 where he studied under Quin, with whom he would later become became good friends. There are two paintings which caught my attention, mesmerising with their angular disjointed frameworks that sit so perfectly with the surrounding architecture of Hans Hollein as if the building itself had been constructed around them. Serendipity at its best.
Frankfurt MMK Architect / Hans Hollein
This is a big show with over 500 works by 100 or so artists, so a lot of information to take in on one visit. I could (and should) have spent more time just looking at graphic drawings by Frankfurt resident Thomas Bayrle and Argentinian born Marta Minujin as well as a series of untitled works by Leon Ferrari. The post war German romance with Americana and the Automobile is depicted by Bayrle in Call Me Jim a phrase apparently coined by the director of the Volkswagen during early negotiations with an American car company in the 1950s. To be amid this maze of intersecting highways doesn’t look anything like fun fun fun on the Autobahn.
Marta Minujin Thomas Bayrle
Inside the the top layer of the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art – a large blacked-out room with a dozen or so screens showing the work of one artist and deservedly so. Ana Mendieta, (1948-1985) the Cuban born artist who moved to America aged 12. Prolific and multi-disciplinary combining land, body art and performance with film, there much to see here and take in . Her 1974 Body Tracks addresses the issue of gender violence using her whole body ,bloodied hands move slowly down a white screen, Ana moves off screen leaving us to witness her mark making, a powerful piece in less than two minutes, her body the subject and object of her work. It seems timely that her work is being shown now, it is a testimony and tragedy that such work retains its power in the present .
Words …Bunny Shepard