• Lecture


Departing from the typographic photo-collage fenster (window), Caroline L. Schopp traces an art-historical arc from fifteenth-century theories of perspective to the postwar Austrian avant-garde. Since the Renaissance, the window has provided a key metaphor for painting, structuring and surveying the subject to be seen. Against such a vision of painting, the avant-garde set out to fracture and close the window. fenster continues the avant-garde’s critique.

In his 1435 treatise “De Pictura,” Leon Battista Alberti provided a concise pedagogical explanation of how to begin a painting: “First of all, on the surface on which I am going to paint, I draw a rectangle of whatever size I want, which I regard as an open window through which the subject to be painted is seen.” Ever since, the metaphor and the very figure of the window have appeared repeatedly in the art and art history of painting, redeployed in both contexts as an image of perspectival painting, a frame for vision, and a structure for producing verisimilitude. The history of painting since the Renaissance could be regarded through the paradigm: windowpainting. Indeed, if Alberti “opened” the window, then the project of the avant-garde could be characterized as an attempt to close it, by disorienting perspective, corporealizing vision, and fracturing verisimilitude through assertions of the surface, opacity, and materiality of painting. Caroline L. Schopp situates Gerhard Rühm and Oswald Wiener’s 1958 typographic photo-collage “fenster” (window) within this trajectory, as a crucial postwar iteration of the avantgarde’s critique. Juxtaposing seven pages of dense, increasingly obscure typography with a photograph of a lacerated human face, “fenster” can hardly be called a painting. Yet by translating – and anatomizing – the conventional media and operations of painting, “fenster” paradoxically places the window, and through it a certain kind of painting, back in focus.

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Ort: IFK