Opening: Thursday, May 25, 2023, 6–9pm
Figural motifs are front and center in the exhibition. When Konrad Klapheck painted his first “kitchen picture” with figures in 1997, some in his audience, devotees of the “painter of machines”, were shocked. Others, however, admired the courage it must have taken to effectively start over as an artist with female nudes—an abrupt decision with which the painter, then sixty-two years old, shattered the constraints of his oeuvre. In addition to the nudes and dazzlingly libertine erotic scenes, he soon produced jazz motifs. Another new strand in his work were the portrait drawings of fellow artists and art-world luminaries he produced between 1992 and 2002. Meanwhile, Klapheck retained two traits from his “machine age”: the cool palette, often with hues enhanced by a metallic gleam, and the standardization of the figures. The result was a fascinating contrast between hot jazz rhythm, erotic scenes, and a seemingly dispassionate technique. The artist’s primary function, it appears, is to implement experimental arrangements that touch on the surreal. The affinity for Surrealism—Klapheck personally knew its impresario, André Breton—has been a source of inspiration for his work since his first typewriter in 1955. Yet Klapheck branched out into a much wider range of motifs.
The figures in the painting “Der Aufzug” (The Elevator) sail past the beholder’s eye as though in a kaleidoscopic vision of fate. The boy about learning for himself about the rigid “goddess” has yet to board the paternoster lift that may become a metaphor for his life. The painstakingly constructed disegno is based on principles such as the golden ratio, though without divulging its secret. Other pictures, like “The Ladies” or “Die Porträtsitzung” (The Portrait Session), monumentalize the feminine. Fascination and menace blend into each other in enigmatic allusions to the artist’s own life. Next to these works, the portrait drawings have the aura of an Old-Masterly ingredient in Klapheck’s art, of form purified. Echoes of the nineteenth-century French arch-classicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whom he reveres, are unmistakable. The pictures do without much by way of ambiance, focusing on frontal figures with spare gestures, though the characterization is spot-on. With all that said, one should not overlook the playful delight Klapheck takes in wit, irony, and the grotesque. The saxophonist performing on the floor, the wide-eyed wonder and perplexity of the boy confronting the young beauty’s bare breasts (a delicate wisp of cloud from a volcano painting hovering in the background), the awkward dancer in “Amateur’s Night”, and more: Klapheck is a master of the deeply serious wink and nod.
Text: Siegfried Gohr
Konrad Klapheck, born 1935 in Düsseldorf, 1954–1958 studied at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. After an early recognition of his artistic work in 1961 (Förderpreis zum Großen Kunstpreis des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen), he subsequently refused all awards. From the 1970s on, his painting influenced the style of Hyperrealism. In 1968 and 1977 he participated in the Documenta in Kassel. From 1997 to 2002 Klapheck held a professorship for painting at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. In 2010 he was appointed honorary member of the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. Klapheck lives in Düsseldorf. Selected solo shows: 2021 Museum MORE, Gorssel (NL); 2019/20 Musée des Beaux-Arts de La Chaux-de-Fonds (CH); 2013 Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf; 2008 Kunstverein Ulm; 2006 Kunsthalle Recklinghausen; 2006 von Bartha Collection, Basel; 2005 Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg; 2004 LVR-LandesMuseum, Bonn; 2004 MAMCO – Musée d’art moderne et contemporaine, Geneva; 1986 Kunsthalle Tübingen; 1986 Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst, Munich; 1985 Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; 1975 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; 1975 Kunsthalle Düsseldorf; 1974 Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; 1966 Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover; 1966 Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal; 1965 Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; 1964 Haus am Lützowplatz, Berlin.
Konrad Klapheck. Venus ex Machina, with a contribution by Ype Koopmans, exh. cat. Museum MORE, Gorssel, Zwolle 2021, 128 p.
Konrad Klapheck. Bilder 1958–2015, with contributions by Lorand Hegyi, Erika Schlessinger-Költzsch and Sandra Vásquez de la Horra, ed. by Galerie Haas, Zurich 2018, 48 p.
Klapheck. Derrière le rideau, with contributions by Kay Helmer and Konrad Klapheck, ed. by Galerie Lelong, Paris 2017, 71 p.
Konrad Klapheck. Das graphische Werk, with contributions by Siegfried Gohr and Tanja Wessolowski, ed. by Siegfried Gohr and Isabel Siben, Berlin 2015, 128 p.
Klapheck. Bilder und Texte, ed. by Kay Heymer and Beat Wismer, exh. cat. Stiftung Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf, Munich 2013, 184 p.
Klapheck. Dreams on Paper, with a text by Isabella Colonna Preti, Varese 2013, 78 p.
Dieter Roelstraete, »L’Homme Machine«, in: Artforum, Vol. 50, No. 7, March 2012, pp. 249–253.
Klapheck. Swing, Brother, Swing, with a contribution by Francis Marmande, ed. by Galerie Lelong Zurich/Paris, Paris 2009, 48 p.
Konrad Klapheck. Paintings from 1955 to 1988, with contributions by André Breton, Konrad Klapheck and Christopher Williams, ed. by Zwirner & Wirth, New York 2007, 136 p.
Menschen und Maschinen. Bilder von Konrad Klapheck, ed. by Ferdinand Ullrich and Hans-Jürgen Schwalm, with contributions by Fabrice Hergott, Hans-Jürgen Schwalm a.o., exh. cat. Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Kleve 2006, 160 p.
Hans Ulrich Obrist, Konrad Klapheck (The conversation Series, 3), with photographs by Hans-Peter Feldmann, Cologne 2006, 68 p.
Villa Klapheck, with contributions by Didier Ottinger and Konrad Klapheck, ed. by Galerie Lelong, Paris 2005, 64 p.
Klapheck, ed. by Arturo Schwarz, with contributions by André Breton, Annie Le Brun, Arturo Schwarz and Werner Schmalenbach, Milan 2002, 192 p.
Klapheck, with a text by Jacques Dupin, ed. by Galerie Lelong Zurich, Paris 1998, 32 p.
Konrad Klapheck, with a text by Rolf-Gunter Dienst, Bonn 1992, 72 p.
Konrad Klapheck. Retrospektive 1955–1985, ed. by Werner Hofmann, with contributions by Werner Hofmann, Konrad Klapheck and Peter-Klaus Schuster, exh. cat. Hamburger Kunsthalle / Kunsthalle Tübingen / Staatsgalerie moderner Kunst, Munich, Munich 1985, 214 p.
Konrad Klapheck, with contributions by André Breton, Wieland Schmied a.o., exh. cat. Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam / Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels / Städtische Kunsthalle, Düsseldorf, Gent 1974, 204 p.