German re-judging of Hundertwasser comes to fruition in COBRA

German re-judging of Hundertwasser comes to fruition in COBRA

Friedensreich Hundertwasser is on show in the modern art COBRA-museum in Amstelveen, a suburb of the city not far from Amsterdam Apartment's south-of-the-city rentals. I cannot emphasise enough how important this show is if you take your modern art seriously. The artist, who rubbed shoulders with the likes of Rudolf Steiner and Carl Jung (whose infamous red book of masterful weird and wonderful drawings of dream symbols was published four years ago, something that seems to have largely escaped anybody who is anybody’s notice) has warranted a whole new approach off late by the art critics. A respectable German art magazine started it, by publicly stating it was unsure whether to see the man as kitschy or a veritable proponent of the
avant garde. It’s an interesting point, almost a tipping point. 

One that the COBRA museum attempts to address. It cites art historian Robert Fleck on its website as saying that Hundertwasser in some ways was ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. The statement could provide the proper background for at least understanding the German question. “In the early 1960s, when European galleries and museums were opening their doors to the avant garde, [Hundertwasser] was in Japan. Many of the artists who then enjoyed new success, such as Piero Manzoni, Yves Klein and Robert Smithson were influenced by Hundertwasser.” 

The exhibition Hundertwasser, Japan and the Avant-garde, can without a doubt be aptly described as a suitable sequel for that success. Flecks words. He does not give you his opinion, save to say that everyone assumes none of Hundertwasser’s entourage was kitsch. On the face of it, Hundertwasser’s Japanese influence is mostly visible in his endless circular and twisted lines and what’s termed his ‘horror vacui’, i.e. the fear of empty spaces. He himself said the straight line was ‘godless’. Which is definitely recognisable in his work.

No less than 40 works are on show some of which have not been in the public domain for over 50 years. Various of his contemporaries and friends are also on display including Dubuffet, Fontana, Klein, Manzoni, Tajiri, Constant, Corneille, Arnulf Rainer and the Japanese artists Sugai, Kito, Hiroshige, Hokusai, Takamatsu and Atsuko Tanaka, of whom Hundertwasser knew and some of whom he was friends with.  

The artist’s relationship to the ideas of the COBRA movement is also explored by this fantastic museum, whose permanent exhibition of paintings by five artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam (hence the name COBRA) are somewhat similar and definitely worth seeing

On show until January 5th.