born in Recklinghausen
1985 - 1993
Studies at Staatliche Kunstakademie Düsseldorf
Masterstudent under Prof. Gerhard Richter
"Bilder vom Verschwinden", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"Iss mich", Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
"Wege in die Ungenauigkeit", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"Die Gelassenheit der Dinge", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"Back to Basics", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf
"Boys n' Girls", Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe (Ge)
"Skulptur und Malerei", Filser und Gräf, München
"Menschenbilder", Museum Frieder Burda, Badan-Baden
"…den Wald vor lauter Bäumen…", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"after the goldrush", Kunstverein Speyer, Speyer
"Es werde Dunkel! Nachtdarstellungen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst", Stadtgalerie Kiel und Kunstmuseum Mülheim an der Ruhr
"Es werde Dunkel! Nachtdarstellungen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst", Städtische Galerie Bietigheim-Bissingen
"Jet Set", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"Kunstdialog gemeinsam in Bewegung", Museum of Art, Wuhan, China
"Deutsche und amerikanische Malerei aus der Sammlung Frieder Burda", Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden
"AkikoAlinaAlinka ....."Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Kiel
"Affetti Collaterali", Guidi & Schoen, Genua (I)
"Kunstpreis der Böttcherstraße 2005", Kunsthalle Bremen
"Dreams are my Reality", La B.A.N.K., Paris (F)
Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"New German Painting", Regina Gallery Moskau (RUS)
"We’ll Slide Down the Surface of Things", De Vleeshal, Middelburg (NL)
"Hands up, Baby, Hands up", Oldenburger Kunstverein,Oldenburg
"Deutsche Malerei 2003", Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt
"Privatleben", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"The Morning After…", Cokkie Snoei, Rotterdam (NL)
Museo Art, Nuoro (I)
Galeria Mario Sequeira, Braga (P) (E)
Studio D`Arte Cannaviello, Milano (I) (E)
Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"Neuer Realismus", Kunstverein Emsdetten (E)
"Self and the Other", Galerie Christa Burger, München
Galerie Jahn, Landshut (E)
Avesta Art 2000, Biennale, Avesta (S)
Taché-Lévy Gallery, Brüssel (B) (E)
Kunstverein, Leimen (E)
"Nachtleben", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"Salon 98", Galerie Bärbel Grässlin bei Tishmann & Speyer Properties, Frankfurt a. M.
Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
"Stilleben", Galerie Voss, Düsseldorf (E)
Participation in art fairs
Art Cologne, Köln
Art Brussels (B)
Art International New York (USA)
Art Frankfurt (G)
Arte Fiera Bologna (I)
Art Rotterdam (NL)
Toronto Art Fair ( C)
Art Moscow (RUS)
Cornice art fair, Venedig (I)
palmbeach³, West Palm Beach (USA)
Generation 89 +
About Frank Bauer’s paintings
“In this way architecture is no longer a question of projecting the abstract but distorting the real.” Nils Ballhausen
Frank Bauer’s pictures are snapshots of situations which normally would not leave a lasting impression on you, in most cases several people meet in a social context . He captures an instant in which the persons he depicts relate to one another and interact, they communicate verbally, through mimicry or gestures, above all through their posture, or rather their gestures. These are people in their late twenties to middle thirties who might best be described by the wonderful term “generation 89”. Niels Ballhausen describes them as follows: “In the European context, the term “generation 89” [unlike Douglas Coupland’s term generation X] seems to be a more appropriate term, since this generation, by consciously and directly experiencing the political changes of 1989, has lost its faith in the durability of social coordinates…. It is only these children of 1989 who can claim for themselves a generational label as much to the point as the label coined for the former anti-aircraft gun assistants who are now in government and the generation of 1968 which is now calling the tune. Generation 89 will provide the first leading figures of the Berlin Republic – or else will fall into oblivion as a mere generational episode.”
Frank Bauer portrays representatives of this generation, and, in them, he stylizes this generation and records it for future generations. If we are to take Ballhausen’s words seriously, it is this generation, of which he is a part and in which he lives, which determines his sujet or rather his genre. As a painter, Bauer becomes a contemporary witness. His pictures are painted and not shot; even if they focus on naturalistic, even photorealistic depictions, despite this endeavour, they are abstractions of the real, since they reduce perceptions to what is visible. They neither depict tones nor sounds, neither conversations nor movements, they are only able to visually capture an ephemeral instant which normally vanishes right away.
Frank Bauer is a disk jockey; this is probably the reason why so many of the scenes which the artist portrays are pictures that depict night life. DJs make a living by not only selecting sound carriers to which people can dance but by also using technical means to change the music material at their disposal according to their own sound aestheticism. So they quite deliberately change existing materials, sounds, sound patterns or noises. This is where the first differences between Bauer, the painter, and Bauer, the DJ, show up; the painter captures and depicts things according to nature, the DJ changes and adapts things. While the DJ’s claim to artistic fame is his modification or combination of different sources, which does not put him in a situation where he competes with the authors of these sources, Bauer’s painting style is not a deliberate combination or modification of things, he rather sticks as closely as possible to the photo and the original situation and depicts it in a very terse and detailed way. He rejects authorship, at least to a large extent. The supervisor who watches over the party’s ambience and style turns into a silent observer and precise, terse spectator who replaces the fast, loud and aggressive beat by a quiet, yet very exciting and highly fascinating genre picture. In general, a DJ entertains and manipulates larger crowds, he directs and stimulates. He is involved in staging productions of sound, light, movements, and ambience, in clubs and for clubs. In his glossary of club culture, Ballhausen mentions the term “bricolage” which he borrowed from Claude Levý Strauss. “It is above all the seemingly senseless use of technological means and aids “contrary to instructions” which is so important for musical bricolage.” So we are talking about productions that live on and are determined by the idea of bricolage. Generic notions and genres are important reference points. Most probably, hip-hoppers would never set foot in a techno club and vice versa, allthough both types of clubs appeal to younger audiences.
While the beat vanishes fast and with a lot of noise, the picture takes shape in a quiet, lengthy and accurate process. But both as a DJ and as a painter, Bauer is interested in human beings, mostly people who are close to him, whom he observes while they interact, talk to each other, or dance. In both professions, the audience is similar, they are his actors. His friends constitute his audience, he dedicates his paintings to them. He pits his pictures against the speed and superficial character of these moments in social life; he himself is not in the picture. “It seems that right in the middle of pop culture’s flood of pictures, DJ culture has imposed a ban on pictures on itself.” His paintings are a tribute to joy, it is a gesture. The intricate capturing of a moment in which friends interact and relate to each other. A picture always captures visible things, gestures and postures in particular. But pictures also capture moods and sentiments which are expressed through gestures. Unlike conversations and movements, we can follow these gestures in Bauer’s pictures. These gestures tell us the story of a moment, because the author is only a witness, he is only an author in that he has chosen this very moment and not any other one; this also applies when he changes the composition, because he makes these changes for pictorial and technical reasons and not because he wants to change the contents. He visualizes a cursory, ephemeral moment and a situation which seems of peripheral importance to the spectator.
Vilém Flusser has taken a very close look at the phenomenology of gestures : “Gestures are a movement of the body or a tool attached to it for which there is no satisfactory causal explanation.” Of course, causal explanations are indispensable for understanding gestures; but they are not sufficient in order to understand these specific movements of the body which we make and which we observe all around us, you have to know their “meaning”.
But in everyday life, because of the speed of the gesture sequences, our fellow-beings are in most cases unable to interpret them, let alone put them in words. That is why in such cases we often revert to automatic behavioural patterns which we know from heuristics, ie. the research into consequences and patterns of decision-making. For most of the time, our behaviour is controlled by the unconscious and only in rare cases by our consciousness. Bauer captures a moment in which people relate to each other and fixes their gestures. He thus facilitates an instantaneous understanding of behaviours.
According to Flusser, gestures are “sentiments” which, in turn, are symbolic representations of moods through gestures. This symbolic character of sentiments lends meaning to our (real or imaginary) moods. Sentiments “spiritualize moods by formalising them in symbolic gestures”.
Flusser talks of the symbolic character of gestures. A symbol is a sign or emblem which acts as a substitute for something we cannot perceive, i.e. in which the perceivable and the unperceivable meet. Things, actions, events, and hence also gestures can be symbols. Bauer uses photographies as a basis for his paintings. Thus, the painting becomes a reproduction of a photography, and the photography becomes a reproduction of the gestures of the people depicted in the painting, and his paintings themselves become artistic gestures. A gesture towards his friends, without pathos, since these situations, after all, are just too unspectacular and not staged. He takes pictures of these moments, i.e. he uses a contemporary method of storing images, but he knows that the individual picture is lost in the whole flood of snapshots and the photo is only of interest the very moment you press the button, because by pressing the button that moment is ennobled and becomes a remarkable moment worth remembering and this is also suggested to the persons depicted in the photo in a striking way. A single instant becomes a moment of a person’s history and the people in the picture become our companions. By copying these photos in his paintings, Bauer lends them importance for a long period of time, because even if we, unlike the author, do not know the history of the picture and the persons in it, it nevertheless is an impressive documentation of a moment and a generation in its time, if we want to take the term “generation 89” seriously. “That is how it was” one might say. Bauer construes something important by capturing a seemingly unimportant moment. Thus, the moment becomes the pars pro toto for what happened in that society.
This type of representation bears a lot of resemblance to photorealism which was very common in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In 1979, in his introduction to the classical work on American photorealism by Louis K. Maisel , Gregory Battcock wrote: “This style, which was first considered to be anti-intellectual and just a show, actually was the logical and necessary extension of aesthetic principles which had developped over half a century of abstract art and non-objectivism”.
Battcock rightly points to the middle of the 19th century and the rise of the school of Barbizon with Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot or Gustav Courbet as their protagonists. Their paintings were considered to be “extremely realistic”. Extremely realistic not only because they tried to copy their sujets in a naturalistic fashion but also because they depicted those facets of life which were not part of the representative glamour of a bourgeois society or of Bohemianism. They were an answer to the rise of photography, which, due to the quality of its medium, offered a particularly credible type of naturalism, even though only in black and white or in shades of gray, and began to take over the traditional realm of the portrait and genre painters. Jean Beaudrillard says that “imitating the universe” has been the leitmotif of art history and calls it “duplication”. This leitmotif of art history only changed with the invention and introduction of photography. Black-and-white photography was regarded as the contemporary medium with the strongest stimulating effect. The motivation for abstraction in some of the impressionists was triggered by photography. They missed the colours, and they noted that the depiction of light and hence of sentiments and moods was missing in the photographies of their contemporaries. They had a more wholistic view and were against the curtailments and the lack of naturalness inherent in this new technology. Other painters, like Edgar Degas or August Renoir, used photography as a basis for their paintings. In these cases, they no longer copied nature, which was typical of impressionism, but nature was replaced by photos which they copied. The process of abstraction began on the basis of a photography, it began on the basis of an abstract representation of nature. We can see two different currents in dealing with photography: one current accepts photography as a means, the other one rejects it. Keeping one’s distance to photography, through abstraction, became one of the leitmotifs of the different currents in modern art.
Using Meisel as an example, Battcock makes an interesting observation in connection with the rise of photorealism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He wrote about Meisel’s motivation to advocate the rising new style: In this sense, their works, whether abstract, conceptual, or non-objective, were pictures nevertheless. They were a reproduction of reality, even if reality was non-objective. And so Meisel was able to recognize that so-called “realistic” works were neither more nor less “realistic” than most other abstract works. He knew already very early that all works had realistic qualities as opposed to illusionist characteristics. After that, it was but a step from non-objective to realistic. In a reproduction, in Meisel’s understanding, a work becomes all the more abstract, the “more realistic” it is, since in a reproduction, even the most realistic work becomes an abstraction.”
There is one recurrent observation about photorealist paintings which holds true for all the different genres: Richard Estes again and again depicts façades of restaurants or shops with reflecting shop windows in New York City in the 1960’s and 1970’s, we see John Salt’s breathtaking car wrecks, or Robert Bechtle’s pictures of people in their cars in American suburbs. What unites all three is their interest in seemingly unspectacular things. These are pictures of everyday life which we tend to delete from our memories: We see two palm trees and three cars in front of a two-storey commercial building in Date Palm, a 1971 painting by Bechtle, corroding car wrecks by John Salt, and a completely interchangeable diner somewhere in New York City in 1970 by Nedick. Yet, they are of interest to people who look at them today because they preserve examples of contemporary history. The ultra-modern car of the past becomes an oldtimer, Times Square in 1974 becomes a reminiscence.
What is interesting is the complete lack of authorship, which only consists in the choice of the sujet of the picture, like with Bauer, and the lack of any personal touch.
All these pictures do not tell us a story, they do not have literary contents, at least none to which we can relate; they show us a genre of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Frank Bauer shows us scenes from one period of life, of his life, friends and acquaintances in places where they meet, where they spend a certain period of their life together. He shows us people in clothings they wear in public, an attire that fits the occasion. In most cases, these are modern outfits that are usually worn in clubs or at parties. The clothing becomes an attribute, a key to understanding, an expression of a person’s internal feelings and sentiments and the ones which he shows to the outside world. In the light of the experience gained with looking at the photorealists of the 1960’s and 1970’s we can say that with hindsight attributes change, both in terms of their meaning and ease of understanding. Robert Bechtle’s big road cruiser, the 1967 Lincoln, becomes a metapher for the period prior to the first oil crisis in 1973, a period prior to the environmentalist movement, a status symbol which has lost all its meaning in today’s world. It becomes an interesting oldtimer. It is a different story with John Baeder’s Empire Diner of 1976 which has hardly changed its outward appearance allthough Chelsea has changed a lot since 1976. How will spectators like us, who were children during the 1970’s, but unable to experience those paintings at the time when they were made, look at Frank Bauer’s pictures in future? Will we know about the fashionable attributes of those days, will we know about technoculture and clubs, or will spectators ask, like we do nowadays in front of Manet’s paintings, who is the lady behind the counter and why did Manet paint her? Will it be of direct interest in the future whether we know that Frank Bauer was a DJ and that he painted his friends? It will be very interesting and fascinating to see those pictures because their brilliancy is just fascinating. Just like today with Richard Estes’ paintings, we will be amazed at how sharply defined they are, because our images of the past will be mostly blurred and vague, and most of the photos in our albums will be ill-focused and will be our own personal memorabilia. They mean something to us, but to no one else, unless he is interested in cultural history or our biography. In no case will they have the topical brilliancy of Bauer’s pictures. But will spectators understand the genre or will we look at them from a phenomenology perspective? Will we be able to decode Beat Streuli’s, Wolfgang Tillmanns’, Larry Clark’s or Nan Goldin’s genre pictures and the social and societal socialisation phenomena which they depict, or will we indulge in iconographic and iconological considerations regarding their art history precursors or their social and sociocultural background, just as we do nowadays with Renaissance paintings? So will we have to leave this to the experts or is there another key to facilitate our understanding of these pictures?
We already said that Bauer mainly depicts human beings. Human beings who communicate with each other through and by gestures, as we saw. We further noted that most gestures have a symbolic importance. The gestures of an individual person mean something but, and this is where we begin to speculate, what about the sum total of these gestures and the genre within which these gestures are common? A rhetorical figure which comes very close to symbols are allegories. The difference between an allegory and a symbol is that the former does not constitute a clear-cut statement, but is considered to be the pictorial representation of an abstract thought. It constitutes a metaphorisation of facts through one and the same pictorial sphere, e.g. representation of a genre like the club culture. Unlike symbols, allegories preserve a substantive-lingustic, or at least a connotative connection between the primary and the figurative sensorial level. In other words, the club culture genre, or more precisely, the pictures in which Bauer depicts human beings in clubs or other circumstances, is an allegory for this kind of life, this lifestyle and feeling which they express by gestures and attributes, and which Frank Bauer captures in his paintings. An interpretation of this allegory and of the importance which this lifestyle has for art and art history will be up to future spectators. But the depicted persons at least can claim that they were part of it and thus become directly involved in Frank Bauer’s art. For them, it is a history in which they participate or appear. Even when there is nothing left which we know of them or about them, they will still be representatives of a period, a lifestyle, and will be able to provide important information about our times to future spectators.