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 Gunther Forg  (1952 - 2013)

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Lived/Active: Switzerland/Germany      Known for: painting, graphic design, sculpture, photography, teaching

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Gunther Forg (born 5 December 1952 in Fuessen, southern Bavaria) is a prominent German painter, graphic designer, sculptor, and photographer. His abstract* style is influenced by American abstract painting. He lives and work in Colombier, Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Forg studied from 1973 until 1979 at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts* with Karl Fred Dahmen. From 1992 until 1999, he taught at the Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe. Since 1999, he has worked as a professor in Munich.

Günther Forg's artistic oeuvre* encompasses paintings, graphic and sculptural works as well as a great body of architectural photographs. His geometrical, abstract, and heavily-dyed pictures have a strong decorative character. Forg combines materials and media in painting, sculpture and photography. The themes of his large scale architectural photographs are Bauhaus* and fascist aesthetics, while his monochrome wall paintings and lead paintings are reflections on art.

Between 1973, Forg’s first year as a student at The Munich Academy, and 1976, Forg painted almost exclusively black monochrome* canvas pictures in acrylic, which, with the addition of a translucent grey, produced a milky, veiled surface effect. After the death of his artistic colleague, Blinky Palermo, Forg pursued the latter’s European legacy of American Minimal Art* from 1977.

In the early 1980s, he made his so-called Alubilder – assemblages* of aluminum sheeting onto which the artist had painted linear patterns or portrait photographs.

Förg started using photography in his work at the beginning of the 1980s. In the area of photography he is known for his works from 1980–2006, primarily very large formats showing famous architectural sites such as the Wittgenstein House, Casa Malaparte, Casa del Fascio, and Hans Poelzig’s IG Farben Building in Frankfurt. For this purpose he travelled extensively to Spain, Israel, Austria, Russia, France, Turkey and Italy where he primarily photographed Bauhaus buildings.

 Förg's photographic research using a 35 mm camera and zoom lenses presents the uncompromisingly modern architecture in an un-embellished way, sometimes dilapidated, often featuring careless renovations or additions. Many of the photographs are views taken through windows that draw attention to transitions from interior to exterior space. The photographs are presented under thick protective glass reflecting the room and the viewer.

In 1988, as part of the Sculpture in the City exhibition, Förg installed two-metre-long walls of mirrors in a Rotterdam tube station; they were demolished in 1999.

Since 1992, paintings and works on paper, known and documented in literature as "Gitterbilder" (grid paintings), appear in Günther Förg's work. The roots 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.

In 1991 for the opening of Frankfurt’s Museum für Moderne Kunst, Förg produced a colorful wall piece for the central stairway, which together with a bronze relief formed a contrast to the architectural structure of the post-modern museum architecture. In 2000, he was commissioned with the design of Swiss Re's Centre for Global Dialogue in Zurich; he handled the color design for all of the interiors in the 1920s Villa Bodmer and installed two enormous tubes of raw metal in its central entrance hall.

In a recent group exhibition in Berlin, "60 Jahre / 60 Werke ", celebrating the 60th birthday of the Federal Republic of Germany, Förgs showed five photographs: Ida, 1985/86 (180×120 cm) ; Treppenhaus München, Michaela, 1986 (180×120 cm), Asilo d'infanzia , Sant Elia , Como, 1986, (180×120 cm), and Asilo d'Infanzia , Sant Elia, Como, 1986 (180×120 cm).

Forg had his first solo exhibition at Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery, Munich, in 1980 with a series of monochrome paintings. In 1992, his work could be seen at the Documenta IX, followed by an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1995. Förg has had solo exhibitions at Essl Museum, Klosterneuburg, Austria, Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany, Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany; Gemeentemuseum, Den Haag, The Netherlands; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv; Kunsthaus Bregenz, Bregenz; and Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin. In 2007, he opened for the first time an exhibition in his birthplace Fuessen.

In 1996, Forg was awarded the Wolfgang Hahn Prize. He is mentioned in Art Now vol. 3 , (Taschen Verlag, 2009) as being amongst the most interesting living contemporary artists. According to Artinvestor Magazine (2009), Forg ranks 23rd globally amongst living artists when several factors are combined, such as collections, auction results and gallery representation.

"Gunther Forg", Wikipedia, (Accessed 4/25/2013)

* For references for these terms and others, see AskART Glossary

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Following is The New York Times obituary of the artist.

Günther Förg, German Artist Who Made Modernism His Theme, Dies at 61
Published: December 18, 2013
Günther Förg, a German painter, sculptor and photographer whose work exemplified, toyed with, tweaked and commented on — sometimes all at once — the broad artistic movement known as modernism, died at his home in Freiburg, Germany, on Dec. 5, his 61st birthday.

The cause was cancer, Jeffrey Rowledge, a spokesman for Mr. Förg’s New York gallery, Greene Naftali, said in an email.

A prolific multidisciplinarian whose work is in permanent collections around the world — among them the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Tate Modern in London, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Modern Art in New York — Mr. Förg was both an ambitious artist and a penetratingly intellectual one.

In his early monochromatic works in the 1970s, his later architectural photographs of Bauhaus buildings and his paintings in abstract styles that recall Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly and others, Mr. Förg sought to explore the legacy of the modernist aesthetic in a postmodern age. Often working on a large scale — The New York Times once described his paintings as “obliquely grandiose” — he created art not simply as object but also as commentary.

In that service, he often melded or juxtaposed media. His paintings done on bronze, lead, wood and other materials engaged the limitations of both painting and sculpture.

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. They depict their subjects as monuments to once formidable movements that have waned, slyly suggesting that some artistic ideas remain stubbornly proud and worthy as the world leaves them behind, but that others simply weaken and wither.

Other photographs expressly evoke movie stills. One of Mr. Förg’s best-known images shows a young woman climbing the long outdoor staircase of Villa Malaparte, a celebrated modernist structure that was built in 1942 on a rocky promontory on the island of Capri and that was used as a setting for Jean Luc-Godard’s film Contempt.

In exhibiting his work, Mr. Förg seized upon the display space as inherent to the work itself. He painted over gallery walls, included doorways and windows as integral elements, set photographs in opposition to paintings and used framed glass over selected works for its reflective power. The resulting tone, critics often noted, was that of an opinionated observer, plaintive or querulous, mischievous or melancholy.

“Retrospectively, the reason for the continued importance of Förg’s oeuvre becomes clear,” the German critic Andreas Schlaegel wrote in 2011. “The evolution of his direct, subjective engagement with the aesthetic of the sublime — conducted without fear of stereotypical taboos — oscillates between appropriation and homage, yet Förg does so without any ironic quotations or other such cheap distancing techniques. Instead, he throws mythical ballast overboard and appropriates picture-making strategies in a way that makes them look new.”

Mr. Förg was born in Füssen, southwest of Munich and near the Austrian border, on Dec. 5, 1952. His father, Michael, worked in a customs office. From 1973 to 1979 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he was a student of Karl Fred Dahmen, a proponent of the school of abstraction known as Art Informel. Among his other early influences was Blinky Palermo, the precocious German abstractionist who was known for his so-called fabric paintings made from colored cloths stretched over a frame.

Mr. Förg taught at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design and the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He had a home in Areuse, Switzerland, as well as in Freiburg. In 1993 he married Ika Huber. She survives him, as do his mother, Leonie, and a daughter, Cécile Huber.

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