An exhibition of avant-garde German graffiti draws from the European artistic tradition

We know graffiti originated in New York, but German graffiti art too seems to have carved quite a niche for itself, as is obvious in “Achtung: Ashphaltkultur”, an exhibition of avant-garde German graffiti.

The exhibition encompasses photographs, videos, drawings, paintings and mixed-media installations by DTagno, Nils Muller, ECB Hendrik Beikirch, Harald Naegeli, Vektor Gruppe West, Peter Strohmann and Mozes&Taps. The exhibition has been curated by Lene ter Haar and Robert Kaltenhäuser.

The exhibition's supporting text says that German graffiti art takes advantage of its European artistic tradition and draws from it, because the art has influences of “abstract expressionist, conceptual or romantic traditions”.

Harald Naegeli's photos “Spraypaint, City Walls” capture graffiti figures on public spaces and monuments that seem to contain clear abstract influences.

The abstract influence continues in DTagno's untitled work put together in “spraypaint on metal”. In that work he paints a large silver circle over a structure composed of metal-sheets stacked against the wall complete with construction debris at the bottom.

Then there are Peter Strohmann's drawings and paintings. One of Strohmann's drawings is actually a cartoon of a man and woman sitting on a deck watching the “sunset”, which is actually the word itself in the form of graffiti. The man tells the woman, “Now there's a contemporary sunset.” His paintings, titled “Serial Killer”, are all composed of random layered letters.

Many mediums

Vektor Gruppe West has displayed a photograph, a video and a mixed-media installation. His photograph, “Never Talk to Strangers (2nd Degree)”, shows a group of people pointing at and discussing another photograph of a train carrying graffiti. The photograph appears like a window with the train on the other side of it.

ECB Hendrik Beikirch's paintings carry heady hints of romanticism, giving off a certain magnetic depth, both in “Versuchung” and “Underthepavingstones”. Though essentially what he paints is wire mesh, the treatment he gives it across various mediums, be it spray paint on canvas (in “Versuchung”), India ink on paper, or marker on plastic (in “Underthepavingstones”), is quite fascinating

Nils Muller also captures people crossing over wire mesh in his digital photographs “The Fence 1-3”. All the videos, by DTagno, Mozes & Taps and Vektor Gruppe West, capture masked men painting graffiti on trains, each artist in his own different perspectives.

“Achtung: Asphaltkultur – German Graffiti Avantgarde” will be on view at Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan, 716, CMH Road, Indiranagar First Stage, till February 26. For details, call 2520 5305/6/7/8 or visit www.goethe.de/bangalore.

Related activites

Curator Lene ter Haar will be leading a guided tour through the exhibition on Friday, February 17 at 6.30 p.m. The event is open to all.

Lene, a contemporary art curator and cultural critic will offer insights into an art form that is still relatively unknown in India. She will be speaking about the emergence of graffiti onto the contemporary art scene, the aesthetic, social and political rationale behind the various works on display and will also answer questions.