Estancia Femsa – Casa Luis Barragán with the support of Franz Erhard Walther Foundation presents Determinations of Proportion, a solo exhibition by German artist Franz Erhard Walther.
Walther was one of the most notorious and unique voices leading the artistic experimentations around language and the materiality of the art object that took place in the 1960s. The exhibition in Casa Luis Barragán brings together several works created by the artist throughout the 1960s and until today. Determinations of Proportions showcases pieces from Walther’s iconic series First Work Set (1963-1969), a selection of early drawings installed in the Barragán Studio and a new site-specific drawing created by Walther especially for the house.
Estancia FEMSA – Casa Luis Barragán invited Mexican curator and independent critic Daniel Garza Usabiaga to collaborate in a publication parallel to this exhibition, delving into the conceptual connections between Walther’s material, poetic explorations and Luis Barragán’s legacy. This publication will also include the first translation to Spanish and English of Walther’s text Architektur: Vernichtung des Raums, written in the 1990s.
Throughout his artistic career, Franz Erhard Walther has explored topics related to the body, sculpture, architecture and the concept of action. Most of his work takes place in the intersection between different techniques and artistic languages, emphasizing the mental and poetic associations that arise the moment when the body of the viewer experiences and thus brings a work of art into completion. Walther understands the artwork as an act of communication, a “sculptural action in space”. As such, time, body, language and memory become the building blocks of his sculptural actions. In the context of Casa Luis Barragán, the curatorial approach proposes a dialogue with the legacy of Luis Barragán by pointing out the affective and emotional dimension of his architecture, concepts addressed by Walther in his own practice through the haptic quality of his pieces, as well as in the unpredictability of the artwork’s activations by spectators. These qualities evoke a spatial experimentation that is central to both Walther and Barragán’s practices.
Determinations of Proportion complements and takes place alongside the exhibition Objects, to use / Instruments for Processes in Museo Jumex.
Franz Erhard Walther, born at Fulda, Germany in 1939, is one of Germany’s most prominent living artists, having exhibited extensively across Europe since the 1960s and participated in four editions of Documenta during the 1970s and 1980s. From 1957 to 1964, Walther studied successively at Hessen State University of Art and Design at Offenbach am Main, Frankfurt Städel Academy for Fine Arts, and the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf, under K. O. Götz. He also took part in Fluxus actions, convened by the Professor of Monumental Sculpture, Joseph Beuys.
Between 1967 and 1973, Walther lived in New York City. Because of his prolific and innovative production, he was included in important collective shows as ‘Spaces’ (1969–70, MoMA, New York) and curator Harald Szeemann’s ‘When Attitudes Become Form’ (1969, Kunsthalle Bern). From 1971 to 2009, Walther was Professor at University of Fine Arts of Hamburg.
Recent retrospectives of his work have been organized by Mamco, Musée d’art modern et Contemporain, Geneva (2010), Dia:Beacon, New York (2010–12), WIELS Centre d’art Contemporain, Bruxelles (2014), CAPC Musee d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, France (2015), and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2017). In 2017, Walther was awarded the Golden Lion for the Best Artist of the Exhibition Viva Arte Viva at the 57th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia, Italy.
His works are represented by many important collections, from institutions such as the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, USA), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris, France), the Daimler Art Collection (Stuttgart-Möhringen, Germany), the Dallas Museum of Art (Texas, USA), the Deutsche Bank Collection, the Fundação de Serralves – Museu de Arte Contemporânea (Porto, Portugal), the Hamburger Kunsthalle (Hamburg, Germany), the Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago, Illinois, USA), Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (Luxembourg), and the Museum of Modern Art, MomA, (New York City, USA) among others.
The artist continues to live and work in Fulda, where the Franz Erhard Walther Foundation is also based.
Walther began to experiment with ways to actively involve spectators in the production of his work in the late 1950s. During this period, he produced his Wortbilder (word images or pictures) pieces, in a bid to force the viewer to create their own image. In the early 60s he began to experiment with paper as the work itself rather than as a support, displaying paper stacks that the audience was invited to leaf through, or large books with which they could interact. In this time, Walther also developed his sewn, padded, pleated and pocketed fabric objects.
It was then that he conceived an art inseparable from the actions that can activate it and the participatory exercises it provokes. At that point, he hardly had a name for what he was making, since neither painting, sculpture, nor performance adequately described his practice, in which viewers, time, and space became his primary medium. The resulting works were radical and influential, and unprecedented in their time.
These experiments led to his best-known work, a fifty-eight-part sculpture action called 1.Werksatz (First Work Set, 1963–69), first exhibited at Documenta 5, in 1972. These are canvas structures, described by the artist as ‘instruments’, which can be exhibited as ‘storage’ installations or as structures ready to be worn and interacted with during object demonstrations in the gallery space. Six exhibition copies from the First Work Set will be included and activated in the exhibition.
At the same time, Walther produced hundreds of work drawings before and after these actions and to plan the installation of his works in several exhibitions. A selection comprising 21 of these pieces will be displayed at Casa Luis Barragán’s Studio.
© Estancia FEMSA, 2018. Photographs by Enrique Macías.