Exhibition text

The subtitle may seem strange, but it has a good reason, both in terms of the history of Bernard Schultze's work and in terms of this exhibition itself. When Bernard Schultze turned 75, he even had the almost fate-challenging idea to paint his 80th exhibition now. Anyone else would be happy with a comprehensive and successful retrospective, but he painted his anniversary exhibition and that too in new oversized dimensions.This resulted in the exhibition "Das Grosse Format" with an equally opulent catalog book, which was shown in 1994 and 1995 in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and then in other museums in Europe. The "large format" is a special challenge for every painter, but when it has been mastered, it has sometimes written a successful history of reception in modern art, as in the case of the American abstract expressionists of the 1950s. The power of their large formats was overwhelming, as was that of Bernard Schultze's, which were created from 1990 to 1994, sometimes reaching a format of 260 x 600 cm as triptychs. We can show only one of such dimensions, the diptych "Windhimmel" from 1990, but another fourteen "Zweimeterbilder" from the collection of the gallery, which we finally wanted to show in the predestined high and wide exhibition space of the KUNST-DEPOT.

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Bernard Schultze was born on May 31, 1915 in Schneidemühl (today Pila, Poland). After graduating from high school in Berlin in 1934, he studied there at the Art School for Art Education and at the Academy in Düsseldorf until 1939 and was a soldier in Russia and in Africa from 1939 to 1944. During the attack on Berlin, all the works he had created up to that point were burned. On the other hand, by chance (?) he was able to help Walther Kirchner in Berlin to save works by his brother Ernst Ludwig from the bombs, as he often told. From 1945 to 1947 he lived with his parents in Flensburg and moved with them in 1947 to Frankfurt am Main, where he met his wife Ursula (Schultze-Bluhm) in 1949 as head of the cultural department of the Amerika-Haus there, with whom he would work in a studio until her death in 1999.

Bernard Schultze experienced the decline and collapse of Central Europe firsthand in his formative third decade of life. He had previously completed a few sterile academy years in Berlin and Düsseldorf. His response to the experience of war and to the spectre of a third world murder, which had seemed possible again since 1948, was the usual one of his generation, namely the turn to abstraction in a Tachism and Informel of his own stamp of vexed-image-like superimpositions. He became one of the protagonists of abstraction, or more specifically Informel, which spread rapidly throughout the world from 1948. In 1952 he founded the "Quadriga" together with Karl-Otto Götz, Heinz Kreutz and Otto Greis in Klaus Franck's legendary Frankfurt "Zimmergalerie". Ursula and he, however, lived and worked in Cologne since 1968, where he died on April 14, 2005. Both were also repeatedly in Paris, where they had a studio for many years.

Bernard Schultze left figurative-representational painting around 1948, but "figure" always remained with him. This is shown above all in the drawing, which always made clear to us the structures lying behind the painting. "Figure", however, inevitably pushed into three-dimensionality, initially via collage into relief. This enabled Schultze in 1961 to react artistically to "Nouveau Réalisme" with his worked mannequins, the "Migofs." As the cosmopolitan pictor doctus, who also wrote poetry, he created an oeuvre of very similar consistency and coherence as, for example, Emil Schumacher, K. O. Götz or Pierre Soulages, but through his non-representational "figure", which always dissolves again fleetingly at the moment when one believes to be visually in possession of it, Schultze nevertheless succeeded in dealing with time and its changing spirit in his work. This is the special of his art, until immediately before his death unbroken and extremely productive, especially in the last drawings and watercolors recognizable.

Thus paints and draws in infinite pictorial landscapes, in which we can read and wander with the eyes. Constantly we recognize something. But before it seems to become completely tangible, it turns into the opposite. The front and the back, the light and the dark, the form and the dissolution and also every color are ambivalent in his work. He presents us with the grotesque, which on the one hand is indebted to the decay of the battlefields of the First World War of an Otto Dix, the journeys into the self of a James Ensor as well as into the abysses of the soul of an Alfred Kubin, and on the other hand refers to the cheerfulness of Tiepolo's frescoes and the lightness of a Fragonard. Thus he paints his "Wind Sky" of 1990 like a late baroque ceiling painting. This lightness, however, is - just as figuratively and formally - repeatedly questioned in a sibylline way in his titles, as in "Ein Wispern des gestürzten Hercules" of the same year, in which dark formations push their way into the Tiepolo colorfulness.

This color world of a bright, warm sun begins in 1989 in "Profile of the Fool", becomes infinitely light in 1990 in "Inside the World", returns, tanning, in 1995 again to "A Migof of the Early Days" actually. "A Headless Scene", "Entrance to the Orcus" and "Incidents in the Cone of Light" from 1996 and 1997 lie in a blue, rather nocturnal light, in "Hallucination" and "Lucifer's Fall" from 1997 and 1999, on the other hand, the colors again burst forth expressively in all contrasts. The conclusion of our exhibition is a grisaille "Auch ein heiliger Antonius" (Also a Saint Anthony) from 1999. As in the early grisailles of the Renaissance, in those of Schultze the drawing, the relief emerges in full plasticity, the sculptural of his form thinking confesses itself without a colored cover, the end of everything in entropy, in which probably also the long "series of investigations" of form and color in Schultze find their inevitable end.

In 1990 we showed a retrospective of Bernard Schultze's work in Campione d'Italia with catalogue and in 1998 in Wichtrach/Bern a double exhibition together with the work of Ursula. This time our exhibition is dedicated to a special feature of Schultze's work and a very special room, our KUNST-DEPOT, built in 2004 by Gigon and Guyer, Zurich, which has since become one of the most highly publicized pieces of architecture of the new century.

Wolfgang Henze


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