Anna Oppermann's Surreal, Feminist Drawings from the 1960s-70s in Solo Exhibition at Harvard's Carpenter Center

  • CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts
  • /
  • April 11, 2019

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Anna Oppermann. Antidesign - Nr. 174, 1969. Colored pencil on Masonite, 150 x 122 cm. Courtesy of the Estate of Anna Oppermann and Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin Germany

Anna Oppermann: Drawings, on view at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts from June 22–September 29, 2019, will be the first solo exhibition of Anna Oppermann’s (1940–1993) work in the United States in twenty years. The exhibition features a survey of this under recognized German artist’s early drawings alongside an early example of one of her renowned “ensemble” installations.

Beginning in the mid-1960s through the early ’70s, Oppermann created an astonishing series of surreal, almost psychedelic drawings that uniquely and quietly explode the private space of the home, and her experience within it. These early drawings contribute to a feminist re-centering of spheres traditionally associated with women, casting everyday objects as symbolic, consequential protagonists: houseplants sprawl to take over the picture plane, windows and mirrors provide views into other worlds, and tables display drawings that themselves open out into new domestic scenes. By placing her own body—her knees, arms, the back of her head—as reference points in the work, Oppermann coaxes the viewer to take on her subjectivity and perspective, emphasizing the gendered realms of the home and the relationships that we form both within and to our private spaces.

The exhibition will also include an early transitional “ensemble” that connects Oppermann’s drawing practice to the room-filling, image-based installations for which she would become best known. Combining large drawings, photographs of drawings, and photo-canvases of displays of drawings and more photographs in space, alongside actual objects, the artist borrowed equally from the display methods of museums, informal memorials, home interiors, and retail to create her “ensembles.” Beginning with a makeup mirror, she constructed these installations through an observation of optical reflections, using the rectangular mirror to duplicate, shift, and expand the perception of interior space to be reflected from multiple, often overlapping viewpoints.

The Carpenter Center’s accompanying publication will be the first Oppermann book produced in the United States and will feature a new text on her work by Connie Butler, Chief Curator, Hammer Museum, UCLA. By focusing on her drawings, the foundational works that would influence the themes and lexicon of the large-scale installations later in her career, Anna Oppermann: Drawings lays the groundwork for another institution to take up the task of producing a full retrospective of this remarkable artist.

With the exception of a single-work exhibition at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in New York City in 1999, and her inclusion in the group exhibition The Everywhere Studio at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, in 2017, Anna Oppermann’s work has rarely been exhibited in this country. Recent exhibitions of Anna Oppermann’s work have been staged at Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, Germany (2017); S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium (2017); Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid, Spain (2016); Villa Arson, Nice, France (2012); Temporäre Kunsthalle Berlin, Germany (2010); Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria (2007); Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany (2007); and P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York (1999). She participated in major international exhibitions, including the 5th Sydney Biennale (1984); 39th Venice Biennale (1980); documenta 6 (1977) and 8 (1987), Kassel, Germany; and 9th Paris Biennale, France (1975). The Anna Oppermann Estate is represented by Galerie Barbara Thumm, Berlin.

Anna Oppermann: Drawings is curated by Dan Byers, John R. and Barbara Robinson Family Director of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University.

Free and open to the public, The Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts is the center for contemporary art and artists at Harvard University. Housed within Le Corbusier’s only building in North America, the Carpenter Center was built in 1963 to accommodate the university’s art and film studios alongside a dynamic exhibition program.

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts is located at 24 Quincy Street in Cambridge, MA 02138

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