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Four Decades — Four Artists

2. April 2004 – 4. October 2004

Up until now, the Schwules Museum has presented group exhibitions. Side by side with these, we will now stage more informal exhibitions of individual artists. By doing this, we hope to take a closer look at the creative possibilities of homoerotic art over several decades. Emphasis will be placed on the years before 1975. Individual works or particular series will be placed in their historic context. This innovation was prompted by numerous inquiries from various artists. Moreover, the Schwules Museum has benefited in recent years from significant gifts of individual works of art or even of entire collections.

We begin with the Hans-Ulrich Buchwald exhibition. With this and with subsequent exhibitions the Museum will fulfil its obvious obligation to shine a light on those pivotal works of gay art and to produce the material for a written history of gay art in recent decades. In the future, we will give priority to the homoerotic works and lives of previously unknown or forgotten pioneers of the gay consciousness.

This year in the first series we will present four artists from four decades. After the presentation of Hans-Ulrich Buchwald’s work, there will follow every six weeks overlapping exhibitions of the artists: Jürgen Wittdorf (born in 1932), Detlef aus dem Kahmen (born in 1943) and Patrick Angus (1953 – 1992).
In recognition of their generosity in donating many works of art, a catalogue on each artist, written by Dr. A. Sternweiler, curator at the Schwules Museum will be published.

My Heart Goes Bang Bang Bang Bang: Gay Pictures by Patrick Angus

Patrick Angus belongs to that generation of artists, who at the end of the 70’s in the face of the prevailing abstract art of that time, began to turn once again towards figurative painting. Fired by the successes of the sexual revolution and by the act of self liberation of homosexuals in 1969 at Stonewall, he wanted to show the reality of gay life (until then denied even in art) in its true light. To this end he used the classical narrative style of painting and drawing borrowing from traditions of American realism established by the likes of Edward Hopper and Reginald Marsh. Around 1979 in the United States one finds examples of this return to figurative, metaphor-rich painting in the works of Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel. There were parallel developments in Europe. In Germany the so-called Young Wild ones reached back to the art of German expressionism from the first decade of the 20th. century and succeeded in creating a powerful new definition of figurative painting.

Speaking of this worldwide phenomenon that returned art to its rightful place after years of neglect, Wolfgang Max Faust used the phrase “the hunger for images”. In his work Patrick Angus succeeded in portraying gay life and love with an abundance of novel themes, an unprecedented format and with a richness of narrative.

Admittedly, only parts of his extensive output of drawings and paintings have survived, but through photographs of vanished works his oeuvre can largely be reconstructed. With a few exceptions, the early work from 1974 to 1978 is lost forever. Yet these few examples suffice to reveal the young artist’s special gift and his single-minded desire to convey the gamut of gay experience. In the years that followed this would remain the central goal of Patrick Angus the artist.

The Schwules Museum wishes to thank Douglas Blair Turnbaugh for his generous gift of the painting My Heart Goes Bang Bang Bang Bang and for two drawings from the Los Angeles series.

Of martyrs and sacred pictures: Gay allusion in the work of Detlef aus dem Kahmen

His pictures of martyrs have earned the painter, Detlef aus dem Kahmen, an important place in the gay art history of the early 70’s. Even before the Young Wild Ones went public in the second half of the 70’s with the explosive statements of their more blatantly gay pictures, Kahmen was exploring the possibilities of making a personal, gay statement in his own paintings. Although Kahmen was only a few years older than Rainer Fetting or Salomé, his works have a much stronger connection to the era of the 1969 legal reforms. In the artistic elevation of commonplace objects, Kahmen’s 1968 series of abstract, coloured drawings with their theme of swim shorts and underpants are indebted to the principles of Pop Art.

The martyr pictures, which originated four years later in 1972, are intended as gay altar pieces inspired by the centuries-old persecution and social ostracism of homosexuals. By creating a memorial to the anonymous, gay martyrs through symbols of love and torture and by immortalizing them in sacred pictures, he is striving in an act of artistic passion to liberate himself from the social prejudices that also prevailed in his own time. The two groups of work define a sociopolitical central moment in gay history, that period shortly before and after the amendment of Paragraph 175 and the decriminalization of sexual relations between adult men.

So as to avoid physical contact: Homoerotic artworks by Jürgen Wittdorf

With his series of graphic work, Youth and Sport created in 1963/64 for the newly built German College of Physical Education in Leipzig, Jürgen Wittdorf produced a homoerotic work which arguably stands alone in the art of East Germany. This public commission reveals the private passion of the artist. The pictures came about in that tortured period when the artist had to admit his homosexuality to himself but before his coming out as a homosexual.

The intensity of the drawings themselves and the numerous preparatory sketches spring from the artist’s erotic longing for the male body – a passion whose only outlet was in art. This series on athletes marks the high point of Wittdorf’s unconsciously homoerotic creations, which can be traced back through individual themes to his earliest work around the year 1950. Shortly after completing the series, Wittdorf faces up to his homosexuality and the homoerotic theme disappears almost entirely from his art. Realising the actual source of his inspiration puts an effective end to the work itself. Wary of the prejudices and disapproval of society the artist decides that his homosexuality will henceforth be a private matter, not to be made visible to others.

Keeping your balance in an uncertain world: Homoeroticism in the work of Hans-Ulrich Buchwald

One special piece of luck was meeting Hans-Ulrich Buchwald, who lives in Hanover and who was born in 1925. His artwork provides a powerful insight into the homoerotic possibilities during the period before the reform of Paragraph 175 in 1969. Conversations with him have unlocked the numerous private metaphors in his work.

After the complete destruction in the Nazi period of all homosexual organisations, networks and personal freedom, it was only possible in 1945 to make tentative contact with the traditions of the Twenties. During this period, when Paragraph 175 still made all homosexual contacts punishable by law, any attempt to establish a homosexual way of life or to organize had to be very cautious indeed. Police harassment, raids, bans, censorship and prosecutions were the order of the day. Hardly any art with a homosexual theme could flourish in such conditions. During the Fifties and Sixties, hidden allusions and encoded homoerotic themes were almost the only resort of the gay artist.

Nevertheless, even in this period one can find veiled, artistic images of love among men – as in the art of Hans-Ulrich Buchwald. Here we find homoerotic allusions and themes that are ubiquitous and unmistakable. Right up until the present, one finds in his work an abundance of personal interpretations and private mythologizing. Buchwald followed his own very distinctive path yet one that was typical for a particular segment of his generation.

After an early phase of homosexual experience, at the age of thirty he married the artist Hella Feyerabend, who was ten years his senior. It was a very happy marriage with three daughters, a union that was full of stimulation, artistic exchange and close cooperation. Simultaneously, however, he was having clandestine, fleeting and mostly nocturnal encounters with men. He kept these adventures hidden from his wife. These experiences and unfulfilled dreams inspired pictorial expression in homoerotic works of an extremely personal, distinctive nature.

Curator: Andreas Sternweiler