Slawomir Elsner's (b. 1976) graphic engagement with two central paintings by artists of the Blue Rider circle is closely bound up with his own creative inquiry into why some works of art seem to be more important, more famous and widely known, than others.
Who writes the histories of art; what is included in them and what is deliberately or inadvertently relegated to some other domain; who is the "star" of a collection, exhibition, or installation; and are these questions about works of art and their categorization in fact still relevant?
Alexej von Jawlensky's painting "Portrait of the Dancer Alexander Sacharoff", created in 1909, is one of the most popular and beloved works in the Lenbachhaus's Blue Rider collection. Marianne von Werefkin's "The Dancer Alexander Sacharoff", painted that same year, is at home at the Fondazione Marianne von Werefkin in Ascona and first traveled to Munich for the exhibition "Soulmates" in 2019—20.
Integrated into the Lenbachhaus’s Blue Rider collection, Elsner's works, meticulously executed with a sharp pencil, are designed to evoke hazy recollections of the original, which, in the case of Jawlensky’s painting, is right in the museum, just in a different gallery, and in the case of Werefkin's work was on view here until February of this year.
Rather than copying the familiar originals, Elsner harnesses his distinctive technique to subject them to probing scrutiny. Proceeding line by considered line in a complex process of abstraction, he leaves only one trait of the two paintings unaltered: the format.
Apparent contrasts such as precision and blurring, detail and distance, forgetting and remembering, Slawomir Elsner’s intervention suggests their inseparability and hints at the axis of gradation that extends between these poles.
Curated by Anna Straetmans
We would like to thank the KiCo Foundation.