"Retrospectively, the reason for the continued importance of Förg’s oeuvre becomes clear. 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”
Executed in 1995, Ohne Titel offers a monumental early example of Gunther Förg’s Gitterbilder (Grid Paintings), a series that would come to preoccupy two decades of the artist’s practice. Raw and exuberant, Ohne Titel perfectly exemplified the series, drawing upon both Förg’s fanatical knowledge of art history and a distinctly tactile and sensorial understanding of gestural abstraction. With this important series, Förg spearheaded an entirely new visual language playfully engaging and subverting the legacy of modernism, carving out a new trajectory for the medium of painting in the late 20th and 21st Centuries.
A buoyant network of gestural hatchings waltz across the vast expanse of Ohne Titel, calling to mind a host of influences from some of the most important and celebrated American painters. Förg skillfully re-imagines the canon of gestural abstraction, calling upon Barnett Newman’s profound compositional devices, Cy Twombly’s lyrical and frenetic paintings, and the biomorphic visual language of Brice Marden’s line work. Skipping between warm ochre, deep black, forest green and blood red, Förg’s influences spill across the surface of the work in a sublime and intoxicating puzzle of painterly gesture.
Beyond breathing new life into American painterly tradition and perhaps most significantly, Förg’s Gitterbilder engaged in an in depth dialogue with the Norwegian master, Edvard Munch. After meeting the art historian and Munch expert Per Bjarne Boym in the early 1990s, Munch’s obsession with the artist blossomed. Förg became fascinated with the intricate backgrounds that fill Munch’s abstract brushwork that cloak his compositions pushing against his melancholy and arresting figures. Indeed more than any of his American influences, Förg’s brushwork with it’s dazzling lattices of vertical and horizontal lines most directly quotes from Munch’s Death of Marat II from 1907.
At the heart of Förg’s practice is an overt awareness of Modernism, Abstract Expressionism and other important strands of the canon of art history whilst also appearing fiercely independent and unique. As Albert Oehlen has said, Förg “creates sublime works from something that is already sublime” (Albert Oehlen quoted in: Andreas Schlaegl, ‘Günther Förg: Galerie Max Hetzler’, Frieze, Spring 2012, online resource).