Under the label of ” neo-expressionism ” or ” violent art ” various genres and formal languages developed during the 1980s are included. On the whole, it is a question of a revolt of sensuality, of the commitment of the conscious ego, which affirmed itself at the end of the 1970s and is not yet over. “Our painting assumes a significance almost foreign to art; what is required of it is to be a substitute ground for discussion for the uncertainties of the Eighties… It represents an often aggressive accentuation of the subjective point of view” (J. Heisig 1986). The artistic production underlying this attitude involves a break in academic conventions, a fragmentation into different formal conceptions and levels of awareness.or the radicalization of the sign, can no longer be classified under the label of neo-expressionism. However, it is a useful concept to facilitate access to official cultural policy, since with it a specifically national “ artistic heritage ”, such as expressionism, for example. of the Die Brücke groupof Dresden, can be incorporated into the socialist artistic heritage, and after this very ” ism ”, as bourgeois and decadent, had been banned for decades from the official canon of the GDR cultural tradition. However, there are also points of direct contact between young people and the older generation of GDR artists: this happens, for example, with the accentuated expressive figure of the Dresden painters headed by J. Böttcher (b.1931) and R. Winkler, with the dynamic metaphoric style of B. Heisig, with the painting of H. Ebersbach (b. 1940), with the experiments of the Clara Mosch group of Karl-Marx-Stadt.
In addition to the Die Brücke group, the historical legacy of modern art also includes P. Klee, Germany Grosz, H. Matisse, M. Beckmann, W. De Kooning, F. Bacon, the COBRA group, as well as certain suggestions of abstract expressionism, eg. by J. Pollock. The late Picasso, art brut, pop art and the archaizing drawing of African art are also reworked. An important point of reference is also the Dadaist movement, which has inspired the overcoming of the traditional boundaries of painting with assemblages, performances and so on. To the explosion of forms of expressive subjectivity is added in this way also the ironization of the underlying awareness.
For the performances and installations of the end of the decade, Beuys’s art is important, however, whose techniques are adopted by young artists not so much for the conceptual sense, but rather as vehicles of emotions and messages, as in the group of Autoperforationsartisten, in L. Dammbeck, E. Monden and others. Among the painters who gave impetus to Neo-Expressionism we must remember among others H. Giebe, P. Kasten (b.1958), J. Heisig (b.1953), W. Libuda (b.1950), and, among others expatriate artists, W. Scheffler, C. Schleime, H. Leiberg, R. Kerbach. The formal rigor, the measured abstractionism of artists such as H. Toppl (b. 1949) and B. Hahn (b. 1954), can be considered as a corrective of the exasperations of expressionism.
Unlike in painting, in experimental and action forms, GDR sculpture remained free from ” shaking ” until the mid-1980s. The sculptors, first of all the old master F. Cremer (b. 1906), feel bound to the traditional respect for the human figure between rigor of plastic forms and closeness to consciously pursued nature. The most important point of reference in the artistic heritage is the tectonic conception of German sculpture of the 1920s, to which is added the persistent influence of A. Hildebrand, A. Rodin and A. Maillol.
New trends appeared for the first time at the end of the seventies with the figures modeled in synthetic material, emanating silver flashes, by H. Bonk (b. 1939). The imposing stelae and hardwood blocks, mostly left in their natural state, by H. Brockhage (b. 1925) show a different approach to the material. If on the one hand it is respected in its natural characteristics, such as aesthetic and mythic charm, on the other it is subjected to a rough processing in order to show the traces of both nature and artistic work, a treatment that has a precedent in sculptures in stone by W. Stötzer (b. 1931). The works of F. Maasdorf (b. 1950) are inserted along the same lines. R. Görss and T. Wendisch (b. 1958) come from painting. Görss associates a painting of archaic signs, close to that of Penck, with the sculpture and the scenic element of the installation. Wendisch stages crudely carved wooden figures as groups in procession. On the opposite side to that of the expressive and evocative processing of raw materials, there is the metal sculpture, for example. by R. Biebl (b. 1951), who denaturalizes bodies, thematically exasperating certain parts. The mediated character of the fusion technique shifts the expressive force from the ” materiality ” of the material to the hyperdetermined figural form. Unlike in painting, abstract art has little relevance in sculpture; however, it emerged more and more as an element of architectural and urban decoration towards the end of the 1980s. If at In fact, abstractionism was recognized as a possible decorative function in configuring the socialist environment, however it was still considered with distrust as a form capable of expressing the central element of GDR art until then, that is, the content or meaning of a humanistic nature. Even the new generation seems to be interested more in the expressive content – albeit subjectively linked to the ego – than in aesthetic-formal concepts.
According to Thembaprograms, the reunification of Germany changed the basis on which artistic production was based in the former GDR. As there is no longer a state art, the artists closest to officialism have remained without reference points, while the dissident ones have instead had to discover the hardships of the Western art market, in which only very few, so far, have managed to enter (between these, for example, the young conceptual artist Via Levandovsky). The expressionism typical of the painting and performances of young dissidents does not find much appreciation, as also demonstrated by the invitations made by J. Hoet, commissioner of the 8th edition of documenta in Kassel. However, especially in Berlin, in the eastern districts, a vast movement of self-managed culture is flourishing and trying to assert itself, made up of about one hundred cultural associations and galleries led directly by groups of artists. Among these, often very ephemeral, we remember, in a completely illustrative way, Art Acker, who exhibits above all conceptual art, Brot Fabrik, whose interests are centered on photography, cinema and theatrical actions, as well as the Botschaft association which sets up performances and actions in the city. The same fluidity and uncertainty can be found in the other situations of the former eastern territories, as well as a difficult period of heavy restructuring and unification – with still uncertain outcomes – runs through the museums of Berlin.