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Few living artists have lived through as much as painter George Baselitz. He grew up and first attended art school in Communist East Berlin, where he learned the approved socialist realist style. Expelled in 1957 for “sociopolitical immaturity,” he then moved to West Berlin, where he studied until 1962, exploring the revival of German Expressionism that the Nazis had banned. The following year, after his first major gallery exhibition, several of his works were confiscated by German authorities who called their content lewd and obscene.
Luckily for the art world, the setbacks Baselitz encountered only spurred him to create more and to evolve to the point he’s at now–with a six-decade career that’s still going strong, and about to get the spotlight at the Hirshhorn’s Baselitz retrospective. The museum, which presented Baselitz’s first-ever career retrospective in 1996, revisits the artist’s oeuvre but with both a wider scope and a tighter lens than before. In over 100 works–many never seen in the U.S. before–the exhibition explores what makes Baselitz one of the 20th century’s most innovative figurative artists, chronologically tracing his development through his paintings, sculptures, and works on paper.
A particular focus on the past 20 years of Baselitz’s output will illuminate how he has, even in the latter stages of his career, changed direction with respect to palette, theme, and technique. With works on display drawn from collections across Europe and North America, it’s a deep dive show and a prime opportunity to get to know an artist who, as museum director Melissa Chiu has said, blends creative genius with a “message about the inherent strength of the everyday human condition” that feels especially necessary right now. June 21 – Sept. 16; Independence Ave. SW at 7th St. SW.