One Third White. Contemporary interest in black and white

Verschiedene weiße Linien und Punkte auf schwarzem Untergrund.

Marsha Cottrell, Jan Paul Evers, David Heitz, Andrey Klassen, Imi Knoebel, Martin Pfeifle, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff

The preoccupation with the deliberate renunciation of colour has deep roots in both the history of art and philosophy. Aristotle himself ranked classical line drawing higher than »if someone were to blindly apply colour, irrespective of how beautiful it may be«. Many epoch-defining works in fine art – Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (1871), Picasso’s Guernica (1937) or Rauschenberg’s White Paintings (1951) – are achromatic.

The exhibition One Third White brings together eight artists from several generations and different genres and media – photography, projection, sculpture, installation, painting – who explore the vast field of grey-scale values. The title of the group show alludes to the Bauhaus Festival of 1926 in Dessau, at which the stipulated colour code was ” two thirds white, one third coloured – spotted, checked or striped«.

The particular focus here is upon the current approach taken by young artists to black and white. The ambitious return to old techniques and minimalist approaches can be seen as a reaction to the visual and technical exuberance of our time, in which art, by means of reduction, can differentiate itself from the mass production of images. As a result, artists have been increasingly turning to analogue black and white photography, or indeed using old printing techniques. On no account does this represent a form of nostalgic recourse to the past, but rather a contemporary realisation of these approaches using the latest knowledge and techniques (as well as other media).

IMI Knoebel, Ort – Weiß Schwarz Weiß Weiß, 2010, Acryl, Aluminium, 302 x 300 x 150 cm, Copyright: VG Bildkunst, Bonn
Marsha Cottrell, BPowder, 2012 (Detail), 284.48 x 431.80 cm, iron oxide on mulberry paper, Foto: Alan Wiener, Courtesy Petra Rinck Galerie
Jan Paul Evers, Der Pfau, 2008, Silbergelatine-Abzug, 31,8 x 34,3 cm, Privatsammlung Köln