Featured Acquisition: Günther Förg, “Untitled,” 2000

Günther Förg (1952- 2013)

Untitled, 2000

Acrylic on aluminum  

19.5 x 23.5 inches (each)  

Two pieces from a series of forty unique variants, executed in 2000.

Each signed on verso: “Eines von vierzig Forg 2000”  (One of forty Forg 2000).


 Schellmann Art, New York

Private Collection, Santa Fe


Born in 1952 in Füssen, Germany (in the Allgäu region), Günther Förg was a prolific artist whose multidisciplinary output included experiments in abstraction and monochrome painting and ambitious, sustained investigations into new materials and philosophies. Universal concepts of form, mass, proportion, rhythm and structure constitute a common thread in his work that includes sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography, and drawing – often in combination.

Förg’s painterly formulations are a consideration of the medium itself, and are in dialogue with the heroes of contemporary painting – such as Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Ellsworksth Kelly and Blinky Palermo – and with the aesthetics of Bauhaus architecture. Förg manages to redirect the media he employs by painting picture surfaces like a house painter, by composing rooms like a worksman, by composing photographs a la Godard. 

Förg studied from 1973 until 1979 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Karl Fred Dahmen. In these years,  Förg developed a practice grounded almost exclusively in grey and black monochrome canvas pictures in acrylic. As he stated, ‘Grey is nothing: not white, not black. Something in between. Not concerned with the figure. Something free.’  Förg started using photography in his work at the beginning of the 1980s. His photographs of buildings with cultural and political significance — Bauhaus structures in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, for example, or Fascist ones in Italy — were taken from unusual, sharp-angled perspectives, with off-center framing and often in grainy focus, suggestive of painting. Many of the photographs are views taken through windows that draw attention to transitions from interior to exterior space.

For some years Förg pursued a purely photographic practice as a reaction against painting itself. He would later reflect that his use of photography was a method of ‘working closer to reality,’ stating, ‘what one paints is not reality.’ During the 1980s and 1990s, his photographic works achieved critical acclaim and were exhibited at major museums internationally, including the Kunsthalle Bern in Switzerland and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York NY. During this time, Förg also began experimenting with the exhibition space itself, painting over the gallery walls, and positioning photographs against his own paintings.
Förg entered a new phase of experimentation in the late 1980s, which brought him back to painting, but also included the embrace of new materials for him, such wood, copper, bronze, and lead. In the early 1980s, Förg made his so-called Alubilder – assemblages of aluminum sheeting onto which he had painted linear patterns or portrait photographs. For his series of paintings on lead, dating from the 1980s and 1990s, he wrapped lead sheets over wooden frames, then painted each surface with acrylic, creating pieces that blur the line between painting and sculpture.

By the  2000s, Förg shifted away from the formality of minimalism, incorporating a brighter palette and more expressive hand with a series of grid-like marks and intersecting colors. The ‘Gitterbilder’ (grid paintings)—command a similar freedom of form and sensuality that led to comparisons to Cy Twombly. The roots for these pieces, however, are to be found in an earlier series, the so-called “Fenster-Aquarelle” (window watercolors): the crossbar forms a grid for the space in the image, which provides the frame for a whole flow of paintings without limiting their free display and development. Other works from this era portray vast canvases of negative space interrupted by colorful, gestural hatching and mark-making.

From 1992 until 1999, he taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe. From 1999 onward he was a professor in Munich at his alma mater The Academy of Fine Arts.  He had a home in Areuse, Switzerland, as well as in Freiburg. In 1993 he married artist Ika Huber. Förg died on his 61st birthday on December 5, 2013 in Freiburg, Germany.  In the artist’s own words, ‘I think painting is a resilient practice; if you look through the history of painting it doesn’t change so much and we always see it in the present. It is still now.’

His works are in collections of the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, the Sammlung Haubrok and the Sammlung Hoffmann, Berlin; the Kunstmuseum, Bonn;  the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the Tate Modern, London; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; MOCA, Los Angeles, CA; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others.

Biographical sources include: Artnet, Hauser and Wirth, Galerie Max Hetzler, DeBrock Gallery , Schellmann Art