April 13, 2005 - Art Frankfurt - April 29 to May 2, 2005 in Frankfurt am Main
April 13, 2005

April 29 to May 2, 2005 in Frankfurt am Main

Studer / van den Berg, ‘Nebelmeer’, 2003, Ink Jet Print, 120 x 270 cm, Sammlung der Baloise-Gruppe, Basel, Courtesy www.nicolaskrupp.com 

Pathetic Fallacy – Romantic Atmospheres and States of Matter
A special exhibition at Art Frankfurt 2005 in cooperation with Frankfurt galleries
April 29 to May 2, 2005 in Frankfurt am Main

Messe Frankfurt Exhibition GmbH
Ludwig-Erhard-Anlage 1
60327 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
T +49 69 75 75 – 0
F +49 69 75 75 – 64 33 
info [​at​] messefrankfurt.com


The exhibition project “Pathetic Fallacy” is based on contradictions and incorrect interpretations. The English term “pathetic fallacy” is nearly impossible to render “correctly” in German and is merely paraphrased as “Vermenschlichung der Natur” (humanisation of nature). The term “romanticism” is likewise subject to incorrect interpretation – less in terms of etymology, more in that it is applied randomly to new contexts. Today’s use of the word usually has little to do with the historical era of romanticism. “Romance” involves anything that can be linked to feelings, from sunsets to emotional ballads.

Romance and beauty are definitely “in”. Our love of contradictions is reflected in the staging of an exhibition that brings together art under the label of romanticism. In the process, we maintain that in fact no “new” romanticism exists.

Modern art is broadly considered “unromantic”, hostile towards the need for beauty and narrative. But is modern art as it has been invoked up to the present not a posthumous abridgement? It involves the teleological skeleton of “modernism”, which began with the dissolution of the object in impressionism and continued linearly to the anti-illusionist, gesturally executed, and finally completely monochrome surface. Even expressionism and surrealism hardly fit into this formula, and extensive battles against modernistic dogmas were waged in the “post-modern” era. Styles and means of expression that were taboo in modern art were “allowed” in a certain manner once again.

In 1993, painter Peter Duka admitted that “the things which are forbidden to a modern painter, for instance to flee or to seek consolation in pictures, excited me”. But was it really the “modern” artist to whom these things were forbidden, or rather the political and socially aware “context artists” of the 1990s who borrowed from the harsh didactics of certain conceptual artists and displaced the hedonistically cynical painters of the 1980s?

In addition to disdaining romanticism, modern art is also said to have disapproved of beauty. But even Wassily Kandinsky continued to pursue as late as 1911 the very principle of beauty the Romantics had used to rebel against the antique ideals of classicism, proclaiming beauty to be that which corresponds to an inner spiritual need.

John Ruskin, the famous 19th century English writer and art critic, would have agreed with Kandinsky in principle. But Ruskin was also critical of romanticism, more specifically the tendency to project one’s own feelings into external nature. The twelfth chapter of the third volume of his “Modern Painters” series, published in 1856, details Ruskin’s criticism of pathetic fallacy and served as the inspiration for the title of the exhibition.

Strong feelings require suitable metaphors, which can also originate from nature. But in this process, nature itself is subjected to a false perception. That vision is possible without knowledge is one of the greatest fallacies that art and art theory have ever subscribed to. “Interpreting” and “visually understanding” the external world were of equal importance in historical romanticism. Its fascinating complexity is characterised by effusive longing for nature and meticulous scientific observation, by mystical immersion and narrative delight in detail. A key characteristic of art from the period around 1800 is the exploration of the rendering of emotional states through a broad range of material qualities. Every attempt to “re”-orient towards romanticism and the period around 1800 must address the issue of whether historical romanticism isn’t in fact much more sophisticated and diverse than the phenomenon that 200 years later is supposed to differentiate itself from existing trends and discourses.

As early as 30 years ago, Robert Rosenblum countered a reductionist theory of modern art (whose long-obsolete array of prohibitions was intended to lend even the most harmless representational imagery an aura of freedom from decades of subjugation) with a continuation of a “romantic” tradition ranging from 1800 to the era of abstract expressionism, from Caspar David Friedrich to Mark Rothko. Interest in art from the period of 1800 has consistently manifested itself in the past 40 years, so it is hardly surprising that a romantic tradition can be identified even in the seemingly unromantic field of conceptual art.

The exhibition “Pathetic Fallacy” features works of contemporary artists who are not disconcerted by Ruskin-style verdicts. Inspired by the history of European art, they open the door to fiction and are not afraid to tell stories in pictures.

In addition to the narrative potential, a range of dissolutions and aggregations, cycles and metamorphoses, oceans and forests, hermetic universes and meticulous observations of nature represent various attempts to counter the complexity of the modern era (including the pervasiveness of digital visual media) with a new “naturalness”.

“Pathetic Fallacy” will take place as part of Art Frankfurt 2005. The programme of participating Frankfurt galleries Anita Beckers, Helmut Schuster and Martina Detterer runs through early June or early July, depending on the gallery. Tour of participating galleries on April 29, 2005, 8 – 10 p.m.

A catalogue will be published including contributions from curators Ludwig Seyfarth and Nina Koidl (German/English).

Participating artists:
Christoph Bannat | Rebekka Brunke | Peter Duka | Nathalie Grenzhaeuser | Beate Gutschow | Peter Heber | Jochem Hendricks | Achim Hoops | Uwe Kowski | Michael Kunze | Thomas Locher | Sebastian Ludwig | Julia Oschatz | Anke Rohrscheid | Corinna Schnitt | Studer / van den Berg | Markus Vater | John von Bergen | Heike Weber
Ludwig Seyfarth
Hein-Hoyer-Strasse 71
D-20359 Hamburg, Germany
Phone, Fax: +49 40-3195788
Mobile: +49 179-4512123

Dr. Nina Koidl
Wundtstrasse 9a
D-14059 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30-3267 8381
Fax: +49 30-3267 8382
Mobile: +49 172-809 2989

Images for download: www.artfrankfurt.de (press-center).
Tamara Laetsch
Telefon: +49 69 75 75 – 6661
Telefax: +49 69 75 75 – 5883

Art Frankfurt
Share - April 29 to May 2, 2005 in Frankfurt am Main
  • Share
Click to subscribe to e-flux and be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements
Subscribe to e-flux
Be the first to receive the latest news on international exhibitions and all e-flux related announcements.
Subscribe to architecture
Explore the most recent content from e-flux architecture and urbanism
Subscribe to e-flux programs
Keep up-to-date on all upcoming talks, screenings, and exhibitions at e-flux in New York