Barbara Thumm

Anna Oppermann

02 Jun - 04 Aug 2012

Seeing complexity
2 June - 4 August 2012

Two previously unexhibited ensembles and some reflections on method from the estate of Anna Oppermann

During a visit to Paris on a scholarship in 1981, Anna Oppermann read Agnes Heller's book "A Theory of Feelings", which had just been published in German. This book must have confirmed her own experiences, thoughts and artistic endeavours on many different levels. The Hungarian philosopher, living in exile in New York, had finally rejected the opposition between thought and feeling that influenced Western thought to such a degree that its ef- fects could still be seen in the many attempts to discard it from the 1960s onwards. By contrast, Heller saw thought as a natural part of feeling and the complex human world of emotions as constituted by constant reflection. Conversely, she emphasised the influence of emotions on the construction of human systems of perception, value and orientation, and also identified "orientation feelings" based on collective social experience.

This book must have appealed to the artist, for since the mid-1960s she had concerned herself with facets of and shifts in gazes, attitudes, light cast on human positions, relationships and problems, and had presented the complexity of perception and reflection in ways that could be directly seen and experienced in her so-called "ensembles". It is surprising that Anna Oppermann forgot to include her ensemble grouping "A Theory of Feeling", created from 1981 onwards in the Cité des Arts, in the first catalogue of her works. In 2007 Herbert Hossmann and myself published it in the revised inventory of the estate.

It is now publicly exhibited for the first time in the Galerie Barbara Thumm – together with photographic work documenting the ways in which Anna Oppermann reflected on her method, which developed gradually through the artistic process of creation, and together with a group of self-portraits also only discovered posthumously. These photographic self-portraits in different poses, disguises and shifting arrangements were created from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. The artist herself kept them together as a group, but they were never made public. However, the artist's shifts in role and perspective – sometimes drastic, sometime subtle – are so remarkable and touching that we have taken the decision to publish them posthumously.

Ute Vorkoeper, May 2012

Tags: Anna Oppermann