walter dahn - another time, another place
4 Oct - 23 Nov 1997
Work by the German artist Walter Dahn (1954, St. Thönis/Krefeld). The exhibition provides a view of his artistic development since 1988.
Dahn's paintings were first shown in The Netherlands in 1981 in the controversial 'new painting' exhibition, Mülheimer Freiheit, at the Groninger Museum. In the eighties his paintings, drawings and sculptures were included in a number of group and solo shows in Dutch museums and galleries.
In 1987, the Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven organized a retrospective of Dahn's paintings and sculptures. The exhibition 'Another Time, Another Place' in the Stedelijk is the sequel to this. The sometimes highly ephemeral work Dahn has made since 1988 is presented in poetic installations through twelve rooms.
In 1971, Walter Dahn went to the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf to study under Joseph Beuys. He was admitted to the Beuys-Klasse at the age of seventeen. At the academy he worked with many different visual vocabularies and techniques. It is therefore not surprising that his work - which at the beginning of the 1980s became channelled into painting - later unfolded into a formal accumulation comprising many strands in which painting remained an option alongside all others.
Dahn's preference for mixing cultural contexts runs parallel to the formal variety in his work. In his sculptures, objects, paintings, drawings, photographs and videos, images with a wide range of cultural origins seek out their place in loosely structured forms - constellations that in turn maintain associative relations with earlier work.
The phases in which he builds up his work and the layering and multiplicity of form in his oeuvre as a whole, can be seen as a metaphor for the way Dahn experiences the world. In the art work, Dahn seems to want to transform the changeable, informal relations of the tangible world precisely in order to provide insight into these relations. His art is in essence 'existential': an expression of the individual's relationship to existence and the here and now.
As the exhibition 'Another Time, Another Place' reveals, Dahn's expansive attitude also reaches out into the exhibition space. The shows he has made over the last few years have been potent arrangements that could be described by the hackneyed, though in this case not inaccurate term, Gesamtkunstwerk. In the same way that Dahn enables his art images to communicate by using a grammar borrowed from other image forms, in his installations he creates an evocative configuration of separate works.
His installations offer a fitting acoustic frame for the humane, poetic and melancholic keynote of his art. Dahn: 'I want to occupy the exhibition space in the way I used to fill the canvas with paint - or leave it empty. I want to extend the openness and the open image we postulated in Mülheimer Freiheit into a new situation.'