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Documenta - Museum Fridericianum gGmbH

Documenta 4
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Excerpt from Documenta, Kassel, Germany

The fourth documenta, and the last for which Arnold Bode was chiefly responsible, was presented under the somewhat overly youthful-sounding slogan “The Youngest documenta Ever.” A considerably younger documenta advisory board was expected to bring the “International Exhibition” in Kassel into closer harmony with the spirit of the times in 1968. Absent for the first time was Werner Haftmann, one of the forefathers of documenta. Will Grohmann left the board along with him, followed later by Werner Schmalenbach and Fritz Winters. Following the retrospective focus of the 1955 documenta and the attempt to pick up the thread of international developments in art four years later, the time had come for a fundamental reassessment of position after the third exhibition, at the latest. In the aftermath of several internal disputes, a twenty-six member team was chosen to render decisions on the selection of artists in keeping with ground-roots democratic principles—not from a safe historical distance that went hand in hand with a latently authoritarian art-historical assessment, as had always been the case before, but with a consistent focus on the contemporary, i.e., the four years that had passed since the last documenta. Many of the works presented were completed shortly before the exhibition or actually produced specifically for documenta—a trend that would continue. Now, in 1968, Pop art made its grand, though somewhat delayed, entrance in Kassel, along with Color Field painting, postpainterly abstraction, Op art, and Minimal art. In an imposing presentation that extended over two stories in the staircase of the rotunda, James Rosenquist’s Fire Slide (1967) established its place in the visual memory of documenta 4. The slogan “seize matters” was affirmed even in the titles of Roy Lichtenstein’s Big Modern Painting (1967), Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nude No. 98 (1968), and Robert Indiana’s The Great Love (1966) in the Main Hall of the Fridericianum, and Claes Oldenburg’s Giant Poolballs (1967) in the Galerie an der Schönen Aussicht. Robert Morrisʼs L-Shapes (1967), Sol LeWitt’s expansive 47 Three-Part Variations on Three Different Kind of Cubes (1968), and the paintings by Barnett Newman (Who is afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue II, 1967) and Morris Lewis also impressed visitors with imposing formats.

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