Why are all the good artists dead

On the death of the painter Karl Otto GötzOld masters of the German Informel

It is well known that the mimes consider it unjust that posterity no longer braids them with wreaths. It is the other way around with visual artists. They grieve throughout their lives that one usually only finds their work good when they are already dead.

This is different today, when every kind of young art is immediately found to be good or good for the market, but the old criteria for success still predominantly applied to Karl Otto Götz's generation. And as a German artist, after the war she had a particularly difficult time getting the attention and acceptance of her works, because the once good reputation of German art was permanently damaged by National Socialism.

"Fast, bouncy, dynamic, downright dance-like"

However, Götz managed surprisingly quickly not only to catch up with the international development of art, for example as the only German member of the artist group "Cobra", which came together in Amsterdam in 1949. With his boldly curved, dramatically agitated imagery, he also embarked on an impressive and gesturally inimitable special path within what is known as informal painting.

His friend, the collector Willi Kemp once described it as follows: "Keeping an eye on the canvas, Götz takes a few steps to the right, then to the left, to pick up a brush and apply a trace of paint. It happens quickly, springily, dynamically, Yes, almost like a dance. It's like an attack that only lasts a few seconds. After the examination and reflection phase, the tension increases when he takes the approximately 30 cm long squeegee in his right hand. He pulls with tremendous speed a sharp cut in the wet paint and hurls it over the canvas. These squeegee strokes are carried out with the swing of the body and increase to such speed that the painter is torn beyond the canvas and has to catch himself in order not to stumble. "

Gestural reactions as the end product of a long thought process

Even if the artist's early work was initially based on surrealism, these spontaneously thrown brush strokes and squeegee strokes never had anything to do with dictations from the unconscious - true to the motto: "It paints in me". On the contrary, Götz was a conceptual artist whose gestural reactions were only the end products of a long process of thinking, meditation and concentration.

Pictures by the painter Karl Otto Götz in a retrospective in the Neue Nationalgalerie. (picture alliance / dpa / Rainer Jensen)

Incidentally, almost to the end, even if he was then of course no longer so nimble and in the end he could only see black and white tones. The formal richness of his imagery allowed him, for example, to stage German reunification as a metaphorically dense coupling maneuver of opposing swings.

Many honors during his lifetime

The painter, poet and art theorist, born in Aachen in 1914, has been honored and awarded art and state prizes countless times in his life. And in 2004 the Düsseldorf Art Academy made him an honorary member. From 1959 to 1979 Götz taught free painting there. The homage with which his former students bowed gratefully to him on his 90th birthday in the Duisburg Museum referred to another remarkable talent of the passionate pipe smoker, because great artists are not necessarily great teachers at the same time, whose students are then also great, and, above all, bring about new great achievements.

The painting classes of the always elegant, exceptional artist Götz, however, turned out to be a true cadre forge for a group of other exceptional German artists. Only Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Gotthard Graubner, Franz Erhard Walther or, what you might not suspect, even the action artist HA Schult are mentioned.

"The traces that we painters leave on this earth are as important and as unimportant as the moraines that a glacier leaves on its icy hike" - said Karl Otto Götz more than half a century ago.

In the eyes of posterity, he will remain a good artist, who not only left important traces in art history with his squeegee.