Magazine article Artforum International

Anna Oppermann

Magazine article Artforum International

Anna Oppermann

Article excerpt

"Somewhere in this world, complexity must still be valued." Anna Oppermann (1940-1993) wrote these words midway through a brief yet prolific career during which she endured the disdain of many critics perplexed by the large, unruly installations she called "ensembles." Consisting of hundreds of photographs, drawings, annotations, found objects, and scraps of paper, these works, meant to change every time they are shown, seem to unflinchingly portray an obsessive impulse: to accumulate words and images in a chaotic and hermetic manner. But despite a position of relative marginality--partly due to the failure of her work to adhere to a recognizable genre or movement but also a product of the condition of being a female artist confronting the masculine ethos of postwar German art--she could count among her supporters curators of major international exhibitions including Documenta and the Venice and Sydney biennials.

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Among the works on display here was Kunstler sein (Zeicbnen nach der Natur, zum Baispiel Lindenblutenblatter) (Being an Artist [Drawing from Nature, for Example, Linden Blossom Petals]), 1969-85, an ensemble first exhibited in 1977 and now "restaged" by curator Ute Vorkoeper, who has worked closely with the artist's estate since 1994. From a distance one saw numerous photographs--many of them printed on canvas and partially hand-colored in a poetic, slightly kitschy gesture--climbing from floor to ceiling and endlessly mirroring one another as they register variations and details of the ensemble itself as it has developed over the years and through different spaces. The titular linden blossoms could be seen on a small twig on the floor, or on a branch hanging in the corner of the installation. In the center a draped three-tier stage was lit from below and adorned with small pictures, sketches, text fragments, and assorted objects, such as an empty slide holder labeled MOTIVSUCHER (viewfinder). It looked something like a vernacular shrine, although Oppermann dismissed such claims, preferring the analogy of "the unorganized desk . …

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