Private collection of European and American modern art on view

By  Vanessa Soetanto

At 976 Art Gallery’s preview of “Original Graphic Artworks of World Famous Artists”, an important collection of European and American modern art was debuted in Ulaanbaatar. For this groundbreaking show, one opening is not enough. At yesterday’s larger, public opening attendees were asked to wear formal attire.

The show features 23 graphic masterpieces by modern art heavyweights that any art historian would swoon over. Works of art by Georges Braque, Salvador Dalí, Sam Francis, Karl Otto Götz, Hans Hartung, Fernand Lèger, Henry Moore, A.R. Penck, Otto Piene, Mel Ramos, Antoni Tàpies, Victor Vasarely, and Walter Womacka are on display side by side.

There is no doubt that these thirteen artists were masters in their own genres of art in the early 20th century. Mel Ramos is known for his pin-up girls, Antoni Tàpies for his matière paintings of mixed media, Hartung for his gestural abstract style in his serigraphs, Sam Francis for his abstract and expressive use of color, and the list goes on.

But some of the artists represented in this exhibition carry more weight in the context of graphic art: they were an integral part of the development of modern art.

Though Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Pablo Picasso’s names are the ones often equated to graphic art, there are many other essential artists who “fathered” artistic movements and shaped modern art as we know it today.

Georges Braque, for example, worked alongside Picasso to advance Cubism and collage; their work is often indistinguishable from one another. Salvador Dalí beckoned his viewers to come into a dreamy world of melting forms in many of his works of art and paved the way for Surrealism. In this exhibition, his etchings, lithography, and engravings open a window into his own personal recurring dreams.

Forerunners of Pop Art and Op art, or optical art, are also represented in this collection. Fernand Lèger simplified the subject matter to create a clean aesthetic currently used in modern advertising. Victor Vasarely played with the audiences’ eyes with his black and white undulating, geometric lines and brilliant colors to create the illusion of movement.

The printmaking techniques used to produce these masterpieces are not to be looked over. The nature of the printing process results in blocky, geometric, and less intricate or smooth forms. Artists that use printing processes—including serigraphy, aquating, drypoint, engraving, etching, intaglio, lithography, offset printing, pochoir (stencil), and woodcut—therefore take advantage of this quality and simplify their subject into graphic abstract expressions.

The art collector responsible for this exhibition is Dr. Gunnar Enghusen, currently a member of the Supporting Society of the Berlin University of Arts. As a friend of numerous artists including A. R. Penck and Peter Makaolies, Dr. Enghusen had begun collecting these unique modern art pieces in the early 70s in Germany, where he was born.

The collection had manifested into a catalogue that represents the beginnings of graphic art in Europe and North America. In Mongolia, where woodblock printing dominated its short history of printmaking, the showing of artwork such as these helps contribute a vital outside perspective of graphic art, and provides a diverse comparison of techniques and styles that can be influential to contemporary local artists.

This exhibition will be on display until January 4, 2014.




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