Berlin, April 2019. Robert Grunenberg Berlin is proud to present Rainer Fetting: Free B. Spirit, the first solo exhibition of the renowned German painter and sculptor. Rainer Fetting (*1949) achieved international acclaim as the “Neue Wilde” in the early 1980s. Fetting is now one of the internationally best known contemporary German artists, having created a large oeuvre of expressive figurative paintings, as well as many bronze sculptures. Hardly any movement in post-war Germany’s history of painting has been both as fiercely celebrated and as ferociously ostracized, as the so-called „Heftige Malerei“ that emerged in West Berlin’s art scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Free B. Spirit is a condensation of motives, topics, strategies, and styles which the artist has been preoccupied with for decades. These come to life in a series of new paintings and sculptures in combination with key artworks that were initially conceived in the 1980s, including the monumental painting „Westnacht“, which is exhibited for the first time ever. In order to understand the provenance of Fetting’s work, to be able to contextualize motifs such as the surfers, skaters, musicians, monsters, and fancy American rides that appear in his recent paintings, one has to go back to the mid-1970s and the general situation at the inception of his career: The still-active “Paragraph 175” in the German Criminal Code outlaws male homosexuality, while activists squat buildings in Berlin’s Kreuzberg disctrict and the gay rights movement – first and foremost the HAW (Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin) – revolts against the status quo. Rainer Fetting is a crucial character in the advancement of “queer” discourses around gender, identity, the individual, and power, which did not only shape the younger generations of a globalized art world, but also still impact mainstream debates today.
Since the early days of his career, Rainer Fetting is preoccupied with precisely unresolved territories in painting that can never provide clear answers or certainties, but instead pose a multitude of questions, create conflicts and uncertainties. Free B. Spirit – the exhibition title already indicates Fetting’s attitude of going against the grain, of opposing rules and a certain zeitgeist. How much he does this indeed, perhaps only becomes clear with the historic distance of looking back at an artistic career spanning more than forty years.
Fetting’s “expressive” portraits, city- and landscapes in the exhibition manage to capture psycho-social energies which reveal themselves in every painterly decision. On one and the same canvas dry strokes, jotted down in a seemingly careless fashion, violently collide with islands, clumps of pastose paint or dark patches, reminiscent of the old masters. However, at no point does Fetting’s work become overloaded with symbols, nor does it ever resort to irony. Perpetually moving along the lines of abstraction, it remains surprisingly open-ended within the confines of its composition. In a conversation with Robert Grunenberg, Fetting remarks in 2019: “Basically, you can always continue to work on a painting – it’s just like everything that is perpetually changing in real life, too: the sky, atmospheric conditions, the weather. All of this is subject to permanent flux.”
Rainer Fetting born 1949 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, lives and works in Berlin.