From 19 February to 1 May 2011 the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf will be holding the world's first comprehensive solo exhibition of the collected works of Ferdinand Kriwet, who was born in Düsseldorf in 1942.
Ferdinand Kriwet is a pioneer of media art. Already in the 1960s he was creating exhibitions, theatre performances and radio plays examining how overstimulation from the mass media affects our viewing habits and analysing the language of television, advertising and photography. Similar to the fine arts, which since the 1950s had been moving further and further away from traditional disciplines such as sculpture and painting, post-war literature was also searching for new, contemporary forms of expression.
Kriwet, whose roots lie in concrete poetry, describes himself as a visual poet who focuses on language. When he was just 19 years old, Cologne publishing house DuMont Verlag published his first work, Rotor. For Kriwet, language is as much about images as about words. The texts in his Rundscheiben (discs), a collection of works he produced in the early 1960s, are ambiguous and indeterminate and have neither beginnings nor endings. With no indication as to the direction the texts should be read in, readers were forced to produce meaning from the content themselves. In the years that followed, Kriwet's neon lettering, wall paintings and signage increasingly featured in public spaces. Before he began retreating from the art world in the late 1980s, he produced several radio programmes and designed a number of Percent for Art projects, including the coat of arms in the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia and a light & text column for a post office in Essen. Kriwet's influence on the art market was never as strong as the effect he exerted, and continues to exert, on other artists. Over the past five years, however, his work has been enjoying renewed interest among curators and gallery owners and has featured in a variety of shows, such as those at Ludlow 38 in New York and BQ in Berlin.
The last time Kriwet's work was on show in his home town of Düsseldorf was in 1975 in an exhibition at the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen and in connection with the legendary Creamcheese club. Over 35 years later, the retrospective exhibition at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf will offer the world's first comprehensive overview of the artist's multifaceted work. In addition to the first Rundscheiben and Poem Paintings, the show will feature his audio and spoken texts, publications, film and television productions, neon works and mixed-media installations, as well as new pieces and some produced especially for the exhibition. The Kunsthalle Düsseldorf is presenting the work of an artist who, right at the start of the mass media's advances into our society, was exploring the meaning of media competence and whose work today, in the age of the internet, is more relevant than ever.