Pascal Polar’s new exhibition presents fifty collages by Karl Waldmann; a beautiful demonstration of freedom and spirit. And there’s more: the gallery also shows the work of other artists, all with varied backgrounds, who’ve embraced ‘paper’ in their works – a material with countless possibilities, as demonstrated in this show.
The life and career of Karl Waldmann remains an enigma. His work was unknown until after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when it was discovered on a market. Probably born between 1890 and 1900 near Dresden, Waldmann disappeared in the USSR in 1958. Forced to keep silent, forgotten or despised, had he ever hoped that his work would survive, hibernate and crop up again? Was he a committed artist or just an outsider working alone in the privacy of his studio, as Pascal Polar describes him? We know that the photomontages of John Heartfield (1891-1968) were banned in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Yet we don’t know much about Waldmann’s work, except for the quality of the artwork on show: not just random pictures but well-thought-out collages, encapsulating social and political issues of an era. It’s fascinating to see how micro-events cumulate and how the collages are imbued with boldness. Both a historian and an artist of his time, Waldmann did not hesitate to tap into the aesthetics of National Socialism or the Stalinist dogma. He combines the power of images and subversion into a mosaic full of symbols and cultural references. For example, he uses the crescent moon or the black triangle to mark asocial prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. Inspired by the layout principles of constructivism or the Dada movement, his works are real gems. And there’s more to them than politics. Besides the swastikas, Hitler, or Gulag images, he also uses the faces of Hollywood divas – Lauren Bacall or Marlene Dietrich, for example, who were ardent anti-Nazis – to illustrate those dark years.
It’s all about paper
Keep some curiosity to watch the twin exhibition too. On the first floor, you’ll see how big-name artists use documents to give paper or book covers a new life. Folding, cutting, slicing or compressing: the most diverse methods are used. Christian Boltanski, René Magritte, Thierry de Cordier, Marcel Marien, Jean Bucquoy or Daniele Buetti all incorporate paper in their works. Used as support or creative material, it is perfect for sculptures, paintings or ready-made. Painted by Joan Miró, crumpled by Costas Tsoclis or the basis of the dresses made by Isabelle de Borchgrave. Tim Rollins and Kos turn paper into musical scores. The Belgian artist Denmark gives waste paper a memory and presents it in new forms. Marcel Broodthaers made the invitations to his first exhibition himself. Letscher gives magazines – the medium of choice of our consumer society – a new purpose. Last but not least, there’s also Muriel Crayencour. Take a moment to stop and admire her books. They’re objects as well as Pandora’s boxes, with covers revealing so many secrets. The artist reworks the titles and gives them a new freedom by drawing in a childish way. La constellation, L’odeur des îles, Sœurs, Les penchants obscurs: sometimes moving, sometimes mischievous, often lewd; these books are humming a hymn to femininity and intimacy…
Galerie Pascal Polar
108 chaussée de Charleroi
Until 12 September
Tuesdays – Saturdays, 14:00 to 19:00