The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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?Images of power?

Artistic portrayals of western and eastern German politics during the Cold War are on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) Jan. 25 through April 19.

‘Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures’ is an exhibit of approximately 300 paintings, sculptures, photographs, multiples, videos, installations and books from 120 artists.

Through their work, artists re-created life and despair of German politics from the Western liberal democracy of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Eastern communist dictatorship of the German Democratic Republic through the Cold-War era.’ With integrations from modern to classic art forms, their stories were told.

Curator Stephanie Barron said the exhibit demonstrates, ‘thematic threads related to history and politics.” Barron’s main goal was to have as many different art forms as possible and multiple ways to consider the time period.’ Her hopes were to increase the focus and study of Germany.’ ‘I want the work to change people’s expression of German art,’ Barron said.

The exhibit marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which opened its gates in 1989 and ended the separation between Eastern and Western German Berliners.

The German artwork presents two very different viewpoints in one museum. The line and wall is no longer separated.’ Sabine Eckmann, director and chief curator of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University was one of the contributing authors for the book, ‘Art of Two Germanys/Cold War Cultures.’

‘(The exhibit) is a historical narrative between East and West.’ It is a subjective engagement with history,’ Eckmann said.’ Germany’s government through the Cold War is seen through the perspective of many artists.’ Some include Via Lewandowsky, an artist who grew up in East Germany as a young boy, and Achim Freyer who spent most of his life in Germany and made his debut to the United States in 2002.’

Lewandowsky contributed the piece, ‘Gefrorene Glieder Brechen Leicht’ or ‘Frozen Limbs Breaking Easily.” The 10-foot tall canvas shows two heads on one body, symbolizing the two viewpoints of Germany; East and West.

The piece signifies the push and pull of both sides and how Germany would eventually collapse if something didn’t change.’ ‘The situation would fall a part.’ Somehow, sometime,’ Lewandowsky said.’ ‘

Lewandowsky recalled experiences as a child that fostered ‘Frozen Limbs Breaking Easily.” ‘I remember when I was a child, my family got back from hiking and was stopped at a crossroad,’ he explained.’ It was 1967 and the family was passed by 10 or more military vehicles.’

But Lewandowsky didn’t experience the violence first-hand while living there.’ ‘Police were present, but you kept going on your daily life and it was not so difficult, but there were unspoken, mysterious moments of violence and images of power.”

The underlying theme of violence was consistent throughout the exhibit.’ Georg Herold weighed in on Lewandowsky’s artwork saying, ‘There is this connection with violence and expressionism.’

Eckmann viewed Lewandowsky’s piece as destructive.’ Eckmann said a lot of the artworks strike her as being beautiful, but revealing ugly sides as well.

Through mediating the two, alluring with the ugly, visitors can experience the violence in Germany and how it might have looked.’ As an example, artist Herold created a piece titled, ‘Laokoon.” It is a beautiful sculpture made out of a vacuum hose.’ Its outside is pleasing to the eye, but the inside plays a recording of a famous speech by Adolf Hitler.’ ‘The piece is more meant to be ironic.’ It parallels the East German dictatorship and cultural policies,’ Herold said.’

Achim Freyer, artist of ‘Seest’uuml;ck’ or ‘Seascape,’ shared his view on the theme of violence in the art.’ ‘Much of the art is not engaging in violence, but it is violent.’ The art has the power in order to stand up against or next to violence,’ Freyer said through a German translator.

He expressed that the works are very dark, aggressive and brutal in form.’ ‘We can discover the differences in the art between two political systems,’ Freyer said.

‘Art of Two Germanys’ is in LACMA’s new Broad Contemporary Art Museum and is broken up into four chronological sections.

1945 to 1949 is the first exhibit and follows the defeat of Nazi Germany when the nation was divided by the Soviet Union, United States, Britain and France.’ Berlin itself was divided into four sections.’ Political tensions were great, and ultimately the Cold War began.

The second section covers the 1950s.’ Artists in East Germany aspired to create works that serviced the state, such as the state’s political and ideological goals at the time.’ The West looked for new materials and abstract pieces to devise.

The 1960s and 70s makes up the third section.’ The definition of art expanded and new forms were developed.’ Political tensions between the East and West were heightened with the erection of the Berlin Wall in 1961.

The last section is the 1980s.’ This encompasses postmodernism issues as the Cold War began to end.’ ‘Violence is the governing principle,’ Sabine Eckmann said.’ ‘Much of the work is addressing the difference from the Holocaust to West German terrorism to East German communism,’ Eckmann explained.

The compelling exhibit goes into the depths of East and West Germany through the Cold War.’ The display’s curators are Stephanie Barron and Eckhart Gillen.

LACMA is located at 5905 Wilshire Blvd.’ Call 323-857-6000 for tickets and exhibit hours.

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