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— Viewing room
Werner Berges: New Awakenings
View significant works by the pioneering German Pop artist

Helwaser Gallery is pleased to present a new digital online exhibition of work by pioneering German Pop artist Werner Berges (b. 1941, Cloppenburg, Germany). This is the gallery’s first collaboration with the artist's estate, and the show will run for a month in our online viewing room, from May 19 - June 19. The exhibition features twenty distinctive works by Berges, made available exclusively online for this period.

Celebrating works that span the late 1960s to the early 1970s, this exhibition examines a crucial period in Berges' practice, as well as his contributions to the growth of the German Pop Art movement.  Described as a "specific aesthetic resulting from the historical, political, and societal situation of postwar West Germany" by Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Max Hollein, German Pop Art  emerged in the mid-1960s against the backdrop of the country's post-war recovery. Characterised by flat, graphic, and vibrant depictions of women posing in groups or alone, Berges' works drew from the formal aesthetics of mass media and advertising, which became ubiquitous in German life in the 60s and 70s. Berges' works, often executed in cardboard, fiber pen, and foil, combined images of the female figure with circles, grids, stripes of color, and lines in ways that were reminiscent of mass reproduction. By removing them from their original contexts, and creating a new visual iconography around his chosen subject, he reacted against the prevailing currents of American Abstract Expressionism and German Informel,  exploring new attitudes that unfurled across Germany after the immediate post-war period.The works in this exhibition were created when the artist was living in Berlin, where the artist made key contributions to the German Pop Art movement. Berges' first solo exhibition occured in Großgörschen 35, an influential artist-run space established by pioneering figures such as Ulrich Baehr, Hans-Jürgen Diehl, and Karl-Horst Hödicke. The year 1966 marked a watershed moment in Berges' career; he began to develop his signature iconography as demonstrated by the works in this exhibition. By 1977, Berges  moved away from Berlin; yet, the works he created during his time there continued to define a crucial position within the German Pop Art movement.

Last modified

May 19, 2020

Artists

Werner Berges

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intro: image - studio
Photograph of Werner Berges in his studio, c. 1990. © The Estate of Werner Berges

"The manner in which Werner Berges gave artistic expression to the spirit of life in the sixties is in a fascinating way neither French nor American, but German. Precisely in the sense of what at the core constitutes being “German” since the age of Romanticism–that artists envisage a better world, utopia, paradise on earth. And in this manner Berges’s naked women too are ultimately the granddaughters of the bathers by the Moritzburg Lakes that the “Brücke” artists turned into their real dream figures at the beginning of the century."

 

—Florian Illies, After the Vanities: An Observation about Werner Berges. 

inventory 1: detail image
Werner Berges
Miss Miss
1970
acrylic on canvas
31 1/2 x 39 3/8 in (80 x 100 cm)
Werner Berges
Portrait
1971
mixed media on cardboard
21 5/8 x 29 1/2 in (55 x 75 cm)
Werner Berges
Halbakt
1972
mixed media on cardboard
19 3/4 x 16 1/2 in (50 x 42 cm)
Werner Berges
Dame mit Punkten
1969
acrylic on canvas
39 3/8 x 31 1/2 in (100 x 80 cm)
Werner Berges
Blond
1969
mixed media on cardboard
25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in (65 x 50 cm)

Berges' figures are often depicted without context. Instead, Berges chose to combine his subjects with patterns such as dots and stripes, as well as colored backgrounds. Often using foil, fiber pen, and cardboard, Berges' works become "playful pictorial abbreviations" supercharged with highly vibrant, dynamic colors. 

body image 3
Werner Berges at the opening of the 16th exhibition of contemporary art in the house of the Federal President on June 20, 1973, with Schwedisches Muster (1972) pictured in the background. Image courtesy the Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F040261-0034 / photographer: Lothar Schaack / Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0
inventory 2: detail image
Werner Berges
Landstück
1971
mixed media on cardboard
21 7/8 x 30 3/4 in (55.5 x 78 cm)
Werner Berges
Ganz schön gelb
1971
mixed media on cardboard
21 7/8 x 30 3/4 in (55.5 x 78 cm)
Werner Berges
o. T.
1969
mixed media on cardboard
19 3/4 x 27 1/2 in (50 x 70 cm)
Werner Berges
Paar
1968
mixed media on cardboard
19 3/4 x 26 3/4 in (50 x 68 cm)
Werner Berges
o. T.
1969
mixed media on cardboard
15 3/4 x 19 3/4 in (40 x 50 cm)
studio photograph 2
Photograph of Werner Berges in his studio, c. 1990. © The Estate of Werner Berges

"In often vibrant colors, the artist depicted mostly cheerful female figures alone and in groups derived from advertising images and reduced to their contours, combining these with graphic ‘disruptions’, such as grids of oversized dots, stripe patterns, overlapping segments and distortions... Here, the stripes and other graphic pictorial motifs that take center stage in his Pop portraits in a strongly stylized, condensed shape, bounce across the canvas as playful pictorial abbreviations."

 

— Belinda Grace Gardner, Flow of Forms: Between Compression and Dissolution, Werner Berges's Abstract Figurations

inventory 3: detail image
Werner Berges
Auswärtige
1972
mixed media on cardboard
19 3/4 x 16 1/8 in (50 x 41 cm)
Werner Berges
Brustbild
1969
mixed media on cardboard
31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in (80 x 60 cm)
Werner Berges
Torso
1968
mixed media on cardboard
23 5/8 x 31 1/2 in (60 x 80 cm)
Werner Berges
Wer sind sie
1971
mixed media on cardboard
31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in (80 x 60 cm)
Werner Berges
Schön ist sie nicht
1971
mixed media on cardboard
27 1/2 x 19 3/4 in (70 x 50 cm)

Berges' created works with his iconic imagery up until the late 1970s; in 1977, he moved from Berlin to a small hamlet named Schallstadt. This marked another gradual progression in Berges' career — as he steadily returned to a more painterly language, and more conservative subject matter such as landscapes and interiors.

 

Yet, these works continued to occupy a crucial position within the German Pop Art movement. Berges' works have been included in over 200 solo and group exhibitions in various venues in Europe and around the world.  

inventory 4: detail image
Werner Berges
o. T.
1968
mixed media on cardboard
23 1/4 x 23 1/4 in (59 x 59 cm)
Werner Berges
Kopf
1968
mixed media on cardboard
31 1/2 x 23 1/4 in (80 x 59 cm)
Werner Berges
Schwedisches Muster
1972
mixed media on cardboard
31 1/2 x 23 5/8 in (80 x 60 cm)
Werner Berges
Zwei Gesichter
1970
mixed media on cardboard
19 3/4 x 23 5/8 in (50 x 60 cm)
Werner Berges
Teil
1968
colored pencil and mixed media on cardboard
24 3/8 x 17 3/4 in (62 x 45 cm)

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