The Davis Museum at Wellesley College presents Christiane Baumgartner: Another Country, the German artist’s first major solo museum exhibition in the United States. Organized as a survey of Baumgartner’s work at midcareer, the installation features 55 prints from the past decade. It includes several of the magnificent monumental woodcuts—hand-carved blocks and hand-printed impressions—for which the artist is best known, along with photo-engravings, aquatints, and photogravures executed in series.
Sourced from videos and photographs, related to subjects that combine interests in war, destruction, speed, standstill, and hope, Baumgartner’s prints are dramatic feats of concept and execution that have earned her critical attention around the world. The exhibition, on view in the Camilla Chandler and Dorothy Buffum Chandler Gallery and Marjorie and Gerald Bronfman Gallery, runs from September 21 through December 16, 2018.
“Christiane Baumgartner works at the intersection of old and new media to expand the conceptual and technical capacities of printmaking—to push beyond the traditional boundaries of the medium’s expectations and precedents,” says Lisa Fischman, curator of the exhibition and Ruth Gordon Shapiro ’37 Director of the Davis Museum. “Really,” she continues, “Baumgartner is processing mediated images (sourced from cinema and television, or her own photographs and videos) to get at bigger and more tricky issues—about speed and transmission, the limits of human sight, cultural memory, and modes of representation. She’s an unusual character in the world of printmaking, of it and beyond it at the same time.”
Baumgartner is known for combining radically different mediums at extreme ends of the spectrum– plying the most contemporary technologies, whether in the form of digital video or photography, with the most traditional hand-labored techniques. After selecting an image that she wants to use, she modifies it on a computer using line grids and then transfers it onto a wooden support (often plywood), to carve the image by hand. Viewed up close, the cut lines look like a type of abstract language. Viewed from farther away, the lines resolve into clarity as image. Often monumental in scale, or produced in large series, Baumgartner’s prints exceed the small spaces commonly allotted to works on paper at most museums; they will find great accommodation in the spacious Davis galleries.
For example, one highlight of the exhibition, Another Country (2016), originated from a digital photograph taken by the artist in 2005 during her first visit to New York—a shot of New York Harbor, looking southwest down the Hudson River. Up close, the viewer sees what appear to be curved black and white lines. However, upon moving away, the waves of the water begin to form, and the sunlight reflecting on the water becomes clear.
Baumgartner’s representation of movement is especially evident in pieces such as The Wave (2017). Based on Hokusai’s iconic piece, it portrays a massive wave the instant before it crashes. In a similar manner, Phoenix (2018), depicts a large plume of smoke rising from a volcano before the ashes fall to the ground. The latter brings new vibrant color into work that was primarily black and white.
Baumgartner says of the exhibition, “For the earliest of the prints on view, I shot photos from a TV screen, taking stills from war documentaries, and these are an important starting point. From there, the exhibition brings us to the light, and into the sunset. This creates a circularity: I see the connection in so far as the sunsets transmit a bitter-sweetness. They aren’t just nice. Rather, they are about transience. The circular concept lends the exhibition its mood.”
Born in 1967 in Leipzig, Germany, Christiane Baumgartner worked as a skilled typesetter at a publishing house before entering the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig (Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig). During her school years, she founded Carivari Artist Press, and was an artist-in-residence at the Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop in Scotland. She entered the Royal College of Art, London in 1997 and completed her MFA in Printmaking in 1999. She has since received many honors and awards, including the 2010 commission of Ladywood, an installation combining print and video elements, by the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in collaboration with The Art Fund, UK and the 2011 commission of Illumination by the Schweizerische Graphische Gesellschaft in Zurich, Switzerland. From 2014 to 2016, Baumgartner was Visiting Professor for Printmaking at the Academy of Visual Arts Leipzig. Her work is held in over thirty public collections worldwide, including the Albertina, Vienna; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Baumgartner was recently awarded the prestigious Mario Avati Printmaking Prize by the Académie des beaux-arts, Paris, which staged her first solo exhibition in France in 2015. Baumgartner lives and works in Leipzig, where she has maintained a studio at the famed Leipzig Spinnerei since 1995.
Catalogue & Contributors
A fully illustrated catalogue, published and distributed by Hirmer Verlag, will contribute new scholarship on the artist: essays by Claire C. Whitner, Director of Curatorial Affairs and James A. Welu Curator of European Art at the Worcester Art Museum, and the former Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Collections at the Davis Museum, and Richard S. Field, retired Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs at the Yale University Art Gallery, contextualize Baumgartner’s work in relation to German printmaking traditions and contemporary artistic practices; and an interview with the artist by the exhibition curator, Lisa Fischman, considers Baumgartner’s practice at mid-career.
Support For Christiane Baumgartner: Another Country
The exhibition and catalogue for Christiane Baumgartner: Another Country were realized with generous funding from Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis; The Kathryn Wasserman Davis '28 Fund for World Cultures and Leadership; The Mildred Cooper Glimcher '61 Endowed Fund; The E. Franklin Robbins Art Museum Fund; The Sandra Cohen Bakalar '55 Fund; The Betty B. McAndrew Art Museum Fund; The Davis Museum and Cultural Center Program Endowed Fund; and the Constance Rhind Robey '81 Fund for Museum Exhibitions.
Christiane Baumgartner: Another Country is part of the Deutschlandjahr USA 2018/19 - Year of German-American Friendship. This initiative is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office, implemented by the Goethe-lnstitut, and supported by The Federation of German Industries (BDI).
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