He engraved his name into art history in 1969, when he painted the representational motif 'Der Wald' ('The Forest') upside down on the canvas. He said, 'An object painted upside-down is useful for painting, because it is not useful as an object.'
For his recent 'Remix' series, he redid his own - earlier - paintings as well as paintings by other painters. I think this is a very convincing way to deal with his oevre and the process of aging. He says, ‘I am very interested in artists’ late works. Some improve, others fail totally. I am interested, why is this the case? Why is the late Otto Dix not so interesting? Why is the late Rothko absolutely great?’
Before painting his motifs upside-down, he started to tear them collage-like apart. 'B for Larry' of 1967 is a famous example of this period. For the 'Remix' series, he redid it in bright oil colors, seemingly in watercolor technique. The original scratches, now white, evoke gestures by de Kooning.
There are also many small-scale paper works in the show: Mainly sketches and watercolors. They seem to illustrate the making of the large paintings, but interestingly, Baselitz did them after the large canvases. This way, Baselitz also innovated the format of 'studies' for paintings.
Georg Baselitz gained his early fame with paintings of his anti-heroes. I think they capture the Zeitgeist in West-Berlin just before the student revolution of 1968. 'Der Neue Typ' ('The New Type') is one of the most famous of it. In the original version of 1965, the painting is made of depressive earth colors, depicting a man in some kind of uniform with a small head in a strange wasteland covered with all sorts of strange instruments on the floor. In the new - remixed - version of 2005, the instruments are all gone, the man has a bigger head and a bright background.
Baselitz says about these paintings, 'My first paintings are like poems by a writer, who is in prison and has to write on toilet paper. They are full of contradiction and depression. They are strangled by anger. A museum is the right place for them. That is okay, but I wanted to make these paintings once again more articulate, clearer and more brilliant. I don't want to be remembered as a simple wood gnome.'
Sometimes I wonder why there are so many outstanding painters - or 'picture makers' - from Germany in the second half of the 20th century.
In my personal view, the struggle between representational art and abstract art was the most important aesthetic issue of this time. It was strongly ideologically triggered by the struggle between the abstract expressionism dogma of the West and the socialist realism dogma of the East.
It is interesting to note, that almost all of the important German painters of this generation have their painterly roots in East Germany and then moved to West Germany to develop their artistic practice further: Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and so on.
'Back in school in the GDR, I started to hate everything that was Russian, because I felt the orientation towards the West was more important for me. However, the orientation towards the East was probably more important for me, but I only realized this later, when I was already in the West...'
Georg Baselitz: 'Remix' at Albertina, Vienna, Austria
until 12th February 2014