Franz Ackermann, born in 1963 in Neumarkt-St. Veit, Upper Bavaria, is one of the foremost German painters of his generation. His strongly coloured installations, murals and paintings are shown worldwide, with exhibitions in the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, as well in Sao Paulo, St. Gallen and Amsterdam, and most recently in Karlsruhe and, once again, in Berlin. He lives and works in Berlin and in Karlsruhe, where he has held a professorship at the Staatliche Akademie der bildenden Künste since 2001.
Ackermann’s focus is on visual expressions of modern urbanity. Architectural elements occur frequently in his works, either as drawings, photographs or paintings. He sets the centuries-old idealised image of the city against his own highly subjective impression of contemporary reality in the metropolis of today. In his paintings and collage-like images, and in his sometimes gigantic wall installations, fantastical spatial perspectives unfold: abstract colour fields whirling around disintegrating central structures seem to physically tumble towards the viewer.
When awarded a stipend in 1991, Franz Ackermann headed for Hong Kong rather than any of the more conventional centres of the art world. Ever since, his works have reflected the social changes wrought by increasing globalisation and the resulting cultural homogenisation. This also applies to the rural spaces that appear repeatedly in his works as well, albeit reduced to a merely functional appendage of the urban: as places of recreation and tacky tourism.
On his travels throughout the world, Ackermann observes perceptions of civilisation and is particularly interested, as he says, in the extent to which reality can still be appropriated and transformed, for instance in an artwork, without excluding or negating existing social complexities. This is the basis on which he creates his so-called Mental Maps – watercolours documenting his impressions, with lines like nerve pathways linking various elements and brightly coloured surrounding areas.
Ackermann’s works are strikingly dynamic – as though capturing a whirling maelstrom in a frozen moment of time. What they convey to the viewer is anything but calm serenity. Only in the various centres of the paintings where the colours are somewhat muted compared to the surrounding areas is there less movement – yet even these suggest a calm that is more akin to the eye of the storm.
This is the fourth solo exhibition of Franz Ackermann’s works to be presented at the Mai 36 gallery. The title CLASSIC LINE echoes a term that refers to a supposed ideal, but whose use has become so inflationary that it is applied these days to anything from mineral water to cars to fashion, etc. Franz Ackermann uses the title as the starting point for countering, once again, an accepted idea. Zurich, with its picturesque qualities, forms the vibrant backdrop to his presentation charting recent urban changes in Berlin – Germany’s biggest city, and the nation’s capital, which has made up for a lack of economic prosperity by turning itself into a stage starring its own history, facades and architecture and marketing itself to tourists. For all its critical potential, however, the work of Franz Ackermann is thoroughly positive in terms of its artistic finesse and the sheer energy invested by both the artist and the viewer in the observation of these phenomena. (Text Axel Jablonski)