Friedrich Teepe  |  1969 / 1985

February 4 - April 13, 2017

Teepe followed his carrier as an artist away from the large artistic centers and instead, moved after his studies at the painting academies in Düsseldorf and Cologne (1958 – 1965), back to the proximity of his hometown Osnabrück. In a renovated farmhouse he focused on one topic: broadening the medium of painting, bringing into focus and elevating the foundation of paintings, canvas. 

Despite his seclusion, Teepe was connected to the artistic discourses of his time, debated primarily by his American peers since the 1950s. Painting was in a crisis. Any form of realistic imagery was frowned upon. The goal was to find the essence of the medium, whereas the fact that an unpainted canvas couldn’t be separated from ‘non-art’ anymore caused the critic Clement Greenberg to be concerned about whether this medium could sustain itself in the future. Indeed painting did remove itself from its discipline and turned towards sculptural forms. However the alleged end of painting only meant its separation from the stretcher and extension into the three-dimensional space.

Soon after his studies, Teepe began to reduce painting to its basic components. At the end of the 1960s he created sign paintings in lurid colors (1969-1, 1969). Soon after, he began to produce white monochromes (1971-10, 1971). After the complete reduction of color the canvas itself moved into the center of his attention: The artist overlies the canvas several times, begins to fold it, to cut it and to sow it together again. The schematic imageries dissolve increasingly, while the materiality of the work moves into the foreground. 

Starting from the mid 1970s the artist completely renounced the use of color. At this time he began to work with his wife, who supported him in creating the canvas objects, based on his architectural-like drawings. The first sculptural objects were created out of linen - the Polsterobjekte - whereas the frame remains as the skeletal structure to stabilize the work from inside. The canvas arrived in the space. Buckles and belts structure the objects, which remind one of mattresses. In actuality, Teepe’s Polsterobjekte are less comfortable, ‘impractical structures’ that block and interrupt the space they occupy. 

The focus of this exhibition builds on the series of works which Teepe began in the 1980s. The canvas is finally removed from the frame. The linen can fall, the tension is relieved, and only by the folding and hanging the fabric finds its form. As sculptural paintings the objects are accessible from all sides and give structure to the room (1985/88). Their appearance explains themselves -as the writer and curator Eva Wilson learned through conversations with Ursula Teepe- through a formal model:  During a journey through Turkey, the Teepes discovered curtains at the entrances of mosques, which formed passages and openings with buckles, belts and straps. Not only as space defining objects, but also in their function to hide, these works become characteristic of Teepe’s oeuvre. They imply hidden structures, an idea the painter wants to explore.

The objects from the 1980s also mark Teepe’s return to form and color: curtains, aprons (1980-1,1980) and dresses are being schematically picked up. Vivid colors (1985-1, 1985) and soon the paintbrush returns to the canvas (86-4, 1986). Like his contemporary Jasper Johns, Teepe moves with fluidity in his exploration of painting. His conceptual examination of painting appears to be strongly influenced by analytical painting and pop art. His works recall German artists from the same period, such as Blinky Palermo and Franz Erhard Walther. However hardly any position can sustain its singularity with such vehemence.

Lydia Korndörfer


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