Parallel bands of crimson dominate each composition, simultaneously unifying and punctuating quadrangles of black, charcoal grey, navy and off-white. Displaying an inherently formalist preoccupation with construction and seriality, Förg’s creative output is entrenched in the history of Modernism. The jet-black field recalls Suprematist El Lissitzky, while the void of white indicates an allegiance to Robert Ryman. Förg’s affiliation with colour and composition further builds upon the revolutionary legacy of Abstract Expressionist giants, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. However, while his predecessors produced immense canvases with a metaphysical and spiritual quality, Förg manufactured a body of work devoid of painterly finesse, neither auratic nor sublime. Much like the Minimalist and anti-spiritual sculptures of Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt and Carl Andre, Förg’s panels form a cohesive aesthetic whole and invoke a phenomenological contemplation of the work, the surrounding gallery space, and one’s own viewing experience. However, beyond austere objectivity, Förg’s Lead Paintings suggest an adversity to the sleek and mass produced aesthetic of the 1960s that is perhaps more aligned with the contemporaneous rejuvenation of expressive painting. Although privileging a hand-wrought materiality that chimes with the concerns of his German contemporaries, the Neue Wilden, Förg was nevertheless a staunch abstractionist. In his work, Förg combined a Modernist-inspired devotion to formalism with a materially imposing means of investigating the limitations of painting and sculpture.
Untitled testifies to the emphatic nature of Förg’s artistry and exemplifies his stylistic ingenuity. With comparable examples housed in The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the seminal Lead Paintings are today lauded as extending the history of minimal abstraction in the later Twentieth Century.
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