George Brecht

A chemist by education and an inventor of hygiene articles, George Brecht wanted to use his art to ensure “that the details of everyday life, the random constellations of objects that surround us, stop going unnoticed”1.  When his career in the pharmaceutical industry came to an end, Brecht attended John Cage’s course “Experimental Composition” at the New York School for Social Research in 1958/59 and developed the idea of “events”, which became a central aspect of the Fluxus concept. Random sounds found on the street provided the starting points for scores and instructions for action, which he committed to paper in 1963, in collaboration with George Maciunas and Tomas Schmit, in the legendary artist book Water Yam. At the end of the 1960s, Brecht moved to Nice, joined the European Fluxus movement and translated Xinxin Ming, the first recorded Zen didactic poem by the Chinese poet Sengcan. In 1972, Brecht went to Cologne and exhibited at documenta 5 in Kassel. During this period, he published his “blank book” BOOK, which directly references the concepts of Zen. In an attempt to bring a blind spot of object perception into focus, Brecht presented the object of the physical book and its elements, such as cover, endpapers, individual pages and colophon, with his written comments. The deictic reference to the functional elements is also the theme of three canvases that were created in the same year. Glued-on comments reference the corner and the surface of the respective artwork, while the third, as is typical of Brecht, includes the short-form imperative instruction “Steal me”.

Ulrike Pennewitz


1 George Brecht, quoted in Ken Johnson, “George Brecht, 82, Fluxus Conceptual Artist, Is Dead”, The New York Times, 15 Dec. 2008.


In the exhibition:

George Brecht
Corner, 1972
Front, 1972
Steal me, 1972
Primed canvas with glued letters
Each 80 × 80 cm
Galerie Michael Werner, Märkisch Wilmersdorf, Cologne, New York