Pictures are omnipresent. They fill our lives as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They can appear anywhere; they make use of every technology and every medium. But pictures not only come upon us everywhere: pictures have effects, they have force, they can heighten their power even to the point of violence-a metaphorical violence, of course. This they achieve in several ways. They can represent violence or endow their aesthetic means with what one might call violent directness. The viewer senses a particular aggression whenever this violence appears mixed with sexuality. And this is precisely what happened in the case of an early picture by Georg Baselitz from 1962, “Der nackte Mann.” It was exhibited for the first time in Berlin in 1963, along with “Die große Nacht im Eimer”-and soon the public prosecutor was on the spot, to ban the exhibition and close it down. A scandal!
Over and over throughout his artistic career, Baselitz has shocked the public-in recent years, however, not so much by means of the provocative representation of sexual organs but rather by the great force of the aesthetic strategies he chooses. It would be wrong, however, to emphasize one-sidedly the provocative element of Baselitz’s work. Even in the picture of the naked man, there are many other things to observe, for-despite the painting’s aggressiveness-despair, fear of the abyss, and an existential solitude or insecurity appear as well in the helpless figure lying in the mud.
...After inventing images of in-betweenness, an unstable state between different times, Baselitz arranged, with great painterly verve, his world of motifs around the unreachable core, a cool crystal which painterly representation can never reach. From time to time in recent years, the artist has spoken of this aim by means of a metaphor; he says he is searching for the “picture behind the picture.” Every successful work, in this perspective, is part of a chain of painterly actions that can never arrive at their goal. There can be no now in the painting of Georg Baselitz. -Siegfried Gohr