Artwork of the month December

Karl Fred Dahmen, Untitled, 1956

Karl Fred Dahmen

*1917 in Stolberg, †1981 in Preinersdorf, Germany

Untitled, 1956

Charcoal and Indian ink on paper
Contemporary Art Foundation

The Nazi regime and the Second World War meant a hiatus for Karl Fred Dahmen and many German artists of his generation. In the early 1950's, he sought, through several trips to Paris, among other things, a new orientation and found it through an encounter with Tachisme (from the French "tache" for spot or stain). Dahmen became subsequently a member of the Informel movement forming in Germany – an abstract orientation, centering on painting as a dynamic process, the gesture of the artist visible in the image. He joined the "Group 53", which during its existence from 1953 to1959 worked both to offer contemporary abstract art a forum and to heighten public awareness for it.

During his stays in Paris, Dahmen explored the possibilities of rendering into images his impressions of the city. Initial representations still identifiable with their objective origin were soon followed by abstract images as in the presented work, Untitled, 1956. The restriction to black tones of varying intensity directs the attention to the gestural line and structure. The thicker charcoal lines and finer ink lines form interlocking grids. In some places they are light and airy, in others so dense that the pictorial ground remains hardly visible. The interlacing of grids and the abruptly changing rhythm of strokes deny the emergence of unity despite a consistent underlying principle. Confusion and order prevail at the same time, rigidity and movement maintain the balance. Not only are the dynamics of the lines clearly visible, the gridwork is also left uncompleted. Much unpainted pictorial ground suggests the potential for further extension. Despite all rectilinearity, the organic appearance of something grown or in the process of growing unfolds. And when this work evokes the distant association with a city map or aerial photograph, it can express then again the paradoxical properties of cities as ordered versus chaotic, of people-planned versus organically formed, and of oppressive-oppressing versus dynamic-open.

Marion Malin

<b>Karl Fred Dahmen, Untitled, 1956</b>
Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein highlights a work from the permanent collection each month throughout the year. Works from the collection of the Hilti Art Foundation are also included in this series on a regular basis.