March 19th – May 28th, 2017


Allan Kaprow – Painting 1946–1957, a Survey


Opening: Sunday, March 19th, 11 am



Allan Kaprow (1927–2006) is renowned throughout the world especially as an action artist. Not only can the idea of happenings be traced back to him, inasmuch as he had a deciding influence on this art form at the end of the 1950s. His happenings and environments – gigantic, movable installations made of such things as car tires, barrels or blocks of ice – are also considered milestones in the recent history of art. It is this dimension that was honored in a particular manner in 2006 by the Haus der Kunst in Munich with the exhibition Art as Life.


However, Kaprow began as a painter, not least during his studies with Hans Hofmann. He also studied with the art historian Meyer Shapiro and the composer John Cage, early on displaying a readiness to traverse artistic and theoretical boundaries. It was a time when the range of artistic materials was expanding: visual art materials came from industry and from everyday life, silence and noise expanded the scope of music, and everyday human interactions entered choreography and dance.


The exhibition at the Villa Merkel in Esslingen is the first to focus exclusively on the early paintings that the artist created between 1946 and 1957. It provides visual evidence of the young artist’s orientation and his investigation of existing creative models, as well as his interest in questions of space – inspired by the exemplary notion “push and pull” formulated by Hans Hofmann – and his endeavor to bring the achievements of figures like Jackson Pollock and John Cage into mutual, even merged relation. Arising against this background starting in the mid-1950s are the works he called “action collages,” in which he gradually came to include everyday materials and objects.












Allan Kaprow, George Washington Bridge, 1955, Oil on canvas, 97,2 x 119 cm, © Allan Kaprow Estate, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Allen Kaprow, Caged Pheasant # 1, 1956, Collage and paint on canvas, 152,4 x 127 cm, Private Collection © Allan Kaprow Estate, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Photo: Barbora Gerny

Allan Kaprow, From James Joyce's "Ulysses", 1956, Öl auf Leinwand, 213 x 193.2 cm, © Allan Kaprow Estate, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, Photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Allan Kaprow, Red Dancers, 1955, Oil on canvas, 150 x 120 cm, © Allan Kaprow Estate. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Allan Kaprow, Three Yellow Nudes with Purple Bottle, 1955, Oil on canvas, 45,6 x 61 cm, Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich

Allan Kaprow, Still Life with Candle Holder, 1956, Oil on canvas on wood panel, 29,2 x 34,6 x 2 cm, © Allan Kaprow Estate. Courtesy Hauser & Wirth, photo: Stefan Altenburger Photography Zürich









Influenced by Jackson Pollock’s focus on the primacy of action, Allan Kaprow set himself the goal of producing his collages as rapidly as possible and simultaneously linking them to musical structures that he had previously transformed into colored material. The artist’s crucial further development of the action collages into environments acquired palpable form for the first time in the Rearrangeable Panels (1957–1959), a multipartite work of canvases capable of being arranged into various forms. He created them in 1959 as an integral part of 18 Happenings in 6 Parts at the Reuben Gallery in New York.


Proceeding from these early pictures and adhering to a stringent conceptualization, Allan Kaprow profiled his perspective in a thoroughly precise form and thereby opened up new dimensions of artistic expression. In his happenings, he broke through the borders between painting, object, installation and performance. This situates him in a dynamic field of intuition, open form and temporal anchoring on the one hand, and a reflective practice as theoretician and art historian on the other.


The exhibition in Esslingen will present a broad spectrum of pictures never before on public display. Pictures which, already at the beginning of an artistic oeuvre, point with unswerving logic far beyond the customary borders between genres. In this sense, it extends a referential arc in the program of the Villa Merkel to such presentations as Survey by Manfred Kuttner, an artist whose paintings from the 1960s – the pictures could be seen at such shows as the influential Demonstrative Ausstellung (Demonstrative Exhibition) in Düsseldorf mounted by Kuttner together with Polke, Richter and Lueg – were ultimately developed further into completely other dimensions.



The exhibition Allan Kaprow – Painting 1946–1957, a Survey is being realized in collaboration with the Allan Kaprow Estate and Hauser & Wirth. A catalogue will be published.













March 19th – May 28th, 2017


Stories in Your Mind


Opening: Sunday, March 19th, 11 am




The exhibition Stories in Your Mind presents various positions of contemporary art that address the theme of narrativity. It focuses on the interaction between viewer and work of art: What characteristics of the artwork in terms of its medium and contents inspire the recipient's power of imagination? Which artistic strategies develop a narrational impact?


Narrative elements are typical of a large number of works of contemporary artistic production. Their utilization does not inherently involve the communication of a story that is complete in itself, as in a feature film, for example. Instead fragmentary structures are created which allow a free artistic treatment. In the form of impulses, they can be described as stimuli that trigger a process of imagination in the viewer. The degree to which the viewer feels a work of art to be narrational or not depends fundamentally on his cultural conditioning and is always subjective as well. Thus the narrative impact does not depend solely on the artistic intention, but to an equal degree on the recipient who responds to the offered impulses through processes of memory, fantasy or emotionalization, for example.










Christian Jankowski, Angels of Revenge (Clown) (1/2), 2006, Diptychon, Fotografie, 100 x 75 cm

Sven Johne, Following the Circus, 2011, 59-teilige Serie, Archival Pigment Ink,je 41,5 x 32,1 cm, Foto: Alexander Schmidt

Jonas Dahlberg, Act I, Scene I, 2011, Detail aus 1/2, C-Print, Inkjet print, 57 x 44 cm, 44 x 22 cm, Courtesy the artist, Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm

Natalie Czech, A hidden poem by Velimir Khlebnikov, 2011, C-Print, 120 x 93 cm, Courtesy Kadel Willborn, Düsseldorf / Capitain Petzel, Berlin

Maximilian Schmoetzer, Preliminary Material for 2022, Still, 2015, Einkanal-HD-Video, 9‘20‘‘, Courtesy the artist










Nevertheless, certain characteristics of an artistic work with regard to its medium and contents enhance its power of narration. A vivid effect is achieved, for example, by moving pictures, by the use of language in written or verbal form, by music as well as by the pictorial or linguistic thematization of figures.

Videos and conceptual combinations of photographs and texts accordingly provide great narrative potential. But also the depiction of empty, uninhabited spaces can inspire the imagination of the viewer, because the representation of time and the constitution of space, for example, can as basic elements for shaping a framework give rise to mental narrative processes.


A further elaboration of the exhibition's theme is an investigation of narration in such modes as the use of writing as a sculptural form and also the medium-specific rearrangement of textual interconnections.



Natalie Czech, Jonas Dahlberg, Christian Jankowski, Sven Johne, Katrina Palmer, Maximilian Schmoetzer


Curator: Clea Laade

May 13th – May 28th, 2017


Alberto Zamora Ruiz – it's happening!


Opening: Friday, May 12th, 7 am


In the past weeks, the function of the “Bahnwärterhaus,” a former signalman’s house, has been expanded transforming one floor to a temporary studio for the painter Alberto Zamora Ruiz. He will now present the results of his stay in the exhibition “it’s happening!” which will run from the 13th to 28th of May featuring additional works by the artist.


In his painting practice, Alberto Zamora Ruiz deals with phenomena in the internet’s grey areas. On channels such as Facebook, Youtube, 4chan, or Reddit, the artist follows the emergence of an increasingly complex internet culture that assigns its own terms to trends and user behaviours, essentially developing its own language.


With the search word “Battlestations,” for example, one can find a plethora of photographs of home computer workstations on the internet. The term initially referred to the workstations of gamers who actually use their computer setups for “battle.” Meanwhile, however, it is used more generally for the configuration of a computer, monitor, and accessories. Internet users celebrate their hardware as a door to virtual worlds. Between the bright digital promise of glaring computer screens and the lonely sadness between cables, Alberto Zamora Ruiz documents these stations.


Alberto Zamora Ruiz, Battlestation, 2016, Serie, ca. 95 x 70 cm, Öl auf Papier, Graphische Sammlung der Stadt Esslingen am Neckar

Alberto Zamora Ruiz, Battlestation, 2016, Serie, ca. 95 x 70 cm, Öl auf Papier, Graphische Sammlung der Stadt Esslingen am Neckar

Alberto Zamora Ruiz, Battlestation, 2016, Serie, ca. 95 x 70 cm, Öl auf Papier, Graphische Sammlung der Stadt Esslingen am Neckar







The trend of the “reaction video,” in which people record themselves watching series or movie trailers, can be seen as an escalation from the ubiquitous selfie. On the living room couch, it is a matter of producing the best facial expression for what is happening on screen. Reaction videos may be clicked on millions of times. With his paintings, the artist draws the viewer back to the real individuals behind the seemingly virtual occurrences.


As the blending of virtuality and reality takes on an increasing weight in our everyday lives, Alberto Zamora Ruiz devotes himself to a precise study of individual phenomena in internet culture, absurd as they may seem, and creates the possibility of approaching these confusing developments.


Alberto Zamora Ruiz (*1982, Mexico City) lives in Stuttgart. He studied with Holger Bunk at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart and was recently awarded a grant in Mexico City (FONCA-Grant 2016 – Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, México).