Telling about the past is one of the most important means of ensuring our present and our identity. This is especially true for the works of art that captures history and memory in unmasking, and yet open and ambiguous images. Showing History visualizes the diverse means of dealing with historical themes based on works from the collection of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld.
With only a few exceptions, the exhibition focuses on art from after the Cold War—following a fundamental socio-political caesura that also led to new ways of aesthetic thinking. This phenomenon, which has been described as the “historiographical turn” in art, shows itself in thrilling works from the collection. Whether the demolition of the Palace of the Republic in the former East Berlin, a fictional moment from the life of Robert Oppenheimer, a TV documentary about the main headquarters of the Mormons or a filmed interview without sound from the Communist youth of the artist’s own mother—many of the works share common motifs like monuments, ruins, finds and reconstructions. The spectrum of possible ways of dealing with images of history range from documentation and staging, symbolic charging and ironic refraction. A historic exception in the exhibition is made up of the prints by Käthe Kollwitz from the early twentieth century. An early chronicler of social injustice, she explored the history of the German Peasants' War of 1524/25 in a series of etchings. The different artist techniques with which historical moments have been visualized range from the expressive richness of Kollwitz’s prints to Gerhard Richter’s blurred paintings and the symbolic darkness of the prints by Christian Boltanski and Luc Tuymans to the cinematic brilliance of the critical storytellers Allora & Calzadilla.
Together with Sharon Ya'ari’s exhibition shown in parallel at Haus Esters, the presentation of works from the collection forms a dialogue concerning artistic dealings with historically charged sites and collective memory.
With works by: Allora & Calzadilla, Lothar Baumgarten, Christian Boltanski, Mike Kelley/Paul McCarthy, Käthe Kollwitz, Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Anri Sala, Thomas Schütte, Thomas Struth, Luc Tuymans, John Wesley and Jeff Wall