Astrid Klein uses photography and sculpture to address and question the “specific recognition of reality. Moreover, in her [...] paintings, she has staged, in a kind of process-based collage, interventions that intertwine photographic methods, layers of reality in the image and the authenticity of the reproduction. As a result, the image is sharply separated from the outside world and confronts it as a completely independent entity.”1 The titles of her pieces are as essential to her work as painting and sculptural elements, black-and-white photographs and found pictures (photographic “ready-mades”), textual fragments that provide context and texts she has written herself. Klein’s experimental photo collages have a strong documentary character; the contexts of their origins remain unknown, questioning their authenticity and giving the works a greater degree of objectivity.
Her white paintings – which were made between 1988 and 1993 and can be read as a counterpart to her black paintings of the 1970s – put the focus on questions of visibility: with this group of works, the artist’s intention is to introduce a pictorial effect into the text elements using alabaster, plaster and zinc white on canvas. The paintings have associations with the white-in-white paintings of Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman and Piero Manzoni. Klein’s paintings centre on the idea of giving visible representation to what cannot be seen or represented. The text elements are a persistent feature giving support to the viewer or questioning their role and position in society and with regard to the picture: the paintings have titles like “… what are you fighting for”, “corriger la fortune” or “Erinnerungen eines Gedächtnislosen”, which appear on white paint in graded repetitions. The themes revolve around remembering and forgetting, past and future, blinding and going blind, erasing and emptiness. The use of monochrome painting is also evident in her flag paintings from 1988 onwards, which are painted in white on a white background with hardly any contrast. Here too, we see a clash of opposites such as abstraction and figuration, visible and invisible. “The physiological and epistemological conditions of perception and memory, their manipulability and vulnerability in the age of genetic engineering and brain research, are themes that have frequently been addressed by Astrid Klein. In her white paintings, she explores the boundaries of perception and memory, confronting lifeʼs challenges and demands with beauty.”2
1 Jörn Merkert,“Begründung der Jury”, in Astrid Klein: Käthe-Kollwitz-Preis 1997, exh. cat. Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1997, p. 2.
2 Dorothea Zwirner, “Weiße Bilder / White Paintings 1988–1993”, in id. (ed.), Astrid Klein: Transcendental homeless centralnervous, Cologne, 2018, p. 233.
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