Thomas Bayrle (b. 1937) has introduced into contemporary art an awareness of the sensual qualities of machines and the aesthetics of automated production. After training as a weaver and graphic designer in the 1950s, he was one of the first artists in Germany to work with computer generated imagery; adopting the principle of serialism, he was also a pioneer of Pop art. His creative evolution is evident in his early films, all of which are on view in the exhibition. Using the means of art, Bayrle examines the laws that organize individuality and masses, gleaning his motifs from our everyday reality and the world of consumer goods.
He regards the growth of urban structures and means of mass transportation as a cycle that is set in motion by economic activity and conversely fuels it. He examines these structures with a critical eye, but also with a keen awareness of his own involvement as a consumer and participant. Since the 1970s, the autobahn has played a central part in his oeuvre. In the new wall installation he has created for the show at the Lenbachhaus, he returns to the highway motif and takes it to a new level: almost a hundred feet long and sixteen feet tall, the wall sculpture, an ornament turned image, represents the physical circulation and movement of humans in their automobiles. The sculpture also reads as a metaphor for the data flows of the information age, which defy the human observer’s capacities of comprehension.
At documenta 13, Bayrle first presented running engines he had cut open to visualize the aesthetic of machinery as well as the rhythm and condition of human life in the mass society. The soundtracks accompanying the engines are largely excerpts from pertinent passages in the ecclesiastical liturgy.
The exhibition includes a complete set of these pieces. Bayrle’s work was on view at the Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2009 and at documenta, Kassel, in 1964, 1977, and 2012.
Curated by Eva Huttenlauch