Günter UmbergTerritorium. Recent paintings and early works from the Seventies October 06 – November 20, 2011
Opening reception Thursday October 6th from 19-21Umberg (b. 1942) is one of the leading artists of our time exploring notions of abstraction, perception and materiality in painting, and is one of the foremost representatives of “Radical painting”, a school which builds on the development of concrete paintings from the 1960s. Umberg started painting in the 1970s, and already then created monochrome paintings with unconventional materials and supports. Pigments from carbonized remains of plants and animals are the basis for the development of his own colors, such as “grape black”, “bone black”, and “ivory black”. The result is a gradation of black nuances: the grape derivative has a slight brown tint, while the ivory derivative has a cooler blue tone. On supports such as fiberboard, wooden panel and sometimes aluminum, Umberg has developed a painting process involving repetitive layering of pigment and binder. This meticulous process can last for months on end. The final result is a completely integrated painting structure, where raw materials are transformed into painting. Although the works are individual expressions of the artist’s painterly actions, they do not communicate anything personal or betray any traces of an individual style. Through the concentrated act of pigment layering, Umberg incorporates physical operations as an essential part of his artistic practice, and adds an intellectual dimension to the technical process. In recent exhibitions, Umberg explores a new form for serial display, and presents large groups of paintings isolated on one wall. By using the span of the wall, he interposes black pigment paintings – which by now are his signature style – with smaller works in nuances of green. Together, the paintings can be perceived as one cohesive group emerging from relations and interplay between the individual works. At the same time, the works can be seen as individual works echoing similar works in close proximity. Painted on fiberboards with varying depths, the paintings’ surfaces are given distance to the wall, are projected out into the gallery space, and initiate a dialogue which further shortens the distance between beholder and painting. In this exhibition, Umberg uses the largest wall in the exhibition space for an installation of 18 recent paintings in different sizes. The exhibition title “Territorium” is according to the artist a reference to his ambition of opening up the dialogue, both between the paintings themselves, the room, and the beholder in a continual conversation. Exhibited in the adjoining room, are three works from the early Seventies. Brown paper dipped in a mixture of asphaltum and turpentine have dried lying in a stack, thereby “painting” themselves. The coloring agent has been absorbed into and become one with the paper. Umberg produced different variants of these works, whereof some sets consist of several parts. The manner in which they are configured, varies in each exhibition. During the 2000s, simultaneously with his professorship at the Art Academy of Karlsruhe (which ended in 2007), Umberg exhibited widely. In the course of these years, his far-reaching approach to painting has come to light in projects he has completed as artist-curator, such as in the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, and Museum fúr Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main. The exhibition “House of Paintings Shadow Space” and its accompanying publication in Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich 2006/07 was a spectacular synthesis of his painterly, installatory, theoretical and curatorial interests. Umberg’s last exhibition in Galleri Riis was in 2007. He lives and works in Cologne, and Corberon in Burgundy.