Thomas Bayrle: Largest UK Survey To Open At The Baltic
All-in-One is a new exhibition at the Baltic of German artist Thomas Bayrle (born Berlin, 1937). It is his largest survey in the UK to date. The exhibition offers a broad overview of Bayrle’s career, with over 200 works from 1960 to the present day. The exhibition is arranged, not chronologically, but by the themes and patterns running through his oeuvre: consumer society, political propaganda, new technologies, sexuality, religion and urban development.
Bayrle began a career as an apprentice weaver at a textile factory in 1956, an experience that gave rise to a lifelong fascination with woven structures and their metaphorical power. The repetitive nature of this factory work led him to see parallels between the fabric he produced and that of society, a notion that is prominent throughout the works on show in the exhibition.
A pioneer of Pop, Seriality and Media Art, Bayrle began making work in the mid-1960s based on serial repetition, creating the foundation for a singular visual language which can be seen throughout his collage, painting, sculpture, film and books. Also influenced by imagery of parades in China, where individuals appeared to be tiny dots in a gigantic moving picture, Bayrle was moved to create his first ‘super-images’. While borrowing images of new, post-war consumer items and industrially-produced fruit and vegetables, he created works such as Glücksklee 1969, Distribution(Birne/blaue Version) 1971, Ein Pils Bitte! 1972 and Apfelbrei 1974, all of which are included in All-in-One.
The social and political struggles that engaged Bayrle in the 1960s coincided with a fight for sexual freedom, illustrated through the erotic images that began to appear in his work as early as the 1970s. While the title of the screen-print series, Feuer im Weizen (Fire in the Wheat), uses fire as a metaphor for uprising, it is the titles of these provocative works, on show at BALTIC, that illustrate the many and varied issues that concerned him at the time: capitalism (General Electric 1970), Marxism, German culture (Hansel and Gretel 1970) and the representation of sexual drives in popular culture.
While many of Bayrle’s distorted images seem like precursors to the digital age, he still favours a manual mode of production, as the working documents on show illustrate. He handcrafts many of his works using labour-intensive processes such as printing in rubber, photocopying and collage. It was only in the 1980s that he began to use a computer, notably in the production of films such as Autobahnkreuz 2007-8, as well as for his sculptural reliefs. The working documents also show the coding in each image. According to Bayrle, every image can be regarded as a genuine machine, as a highly structured collection of parts in many ways like the motors presented within the exhibition. These, his most recent works, echo his very first kinetic paintings, which he created in the mid-1960s.
All-in-One is presented on Level 4 and Ground Floor at BALTIC.
Thomas Bayrle, All-in-One. Organised by WIELS, Brussels, in collaboration with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, MuseoMADRE, Napoli and IAC — Institut d'art contemporain — Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alpes.
THOMAS BAYRLE was born in Berlin in 1937, and lives and works in Frankfurt.
He is an influential and pioneering figure who has been an important reference for several generations of artists through his teaching at Städelschule(1975-2005).
THOMAS BAYRLE: All-in-One 29 November 2013 – 23 February 2014 BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead