‘I do not believe I can invent something new in art or painting because whatever I would want to invent already exists.’
Michael Krebber's (b. 1954, Cologne) painting oscillates between conceptual and aesthetic concerns and impulses. Known for his almost featherweight use of brushwork and subtle pictorial interventions, Krebber’s work has a feeling of being incomplete - like a paragraph cut off mid-sentence, leaving his work open and full of space for the viewers imagination and participation.
Emerging from the Cologne-based art scene of the 1970s and 1980s alongside artists Martin Kippenberger, Sigmar Polke and Albert Oehlen, Krebber's work is often characterized as “painting about painting” - full of allusions to his contemporaries and reflections on the components that make up a picture; the framing, borders, the space in between marks and the diffusion of form. Krebber's work is at once compositionally controlled and unpredictable, sparse and reductive, but also suggestive and expansive. Krebber's adheres to the dictum that less is more.
In this watercolor, painted early in the artists’ career, we can clearly see the aforementioned stylistic choices that continue to typify Krebber's work. In the bottom of the left hand corner we see a gentleman or ‘Dandy’; a description famously prescribed to Krebber himself by German critic, Helmut Draxler. Draxler positions Krebber as someone who sits at an ironic distance from his subject, his work and the artworld he inhabits. Below is an excerpt of Draxler’s essay on Krebber, further explaining this assertion.
MICHAEL KREBBER AT LONDON PROJECTS, 1994
In 1994, Michael Krebber exhibited with Marc Jancou at his gallery London Projects a series of paintings and works on paper. At this early point in his career, he emerged from enigmatic obscurity as the assistant of both Martin Kippenberger and George Baselitz to the forefront of the art world as a painter in his own right. This exhibition is an early example of Michael Krebber’s painting style which would go on to have a profound influence on the aesthetics and conceptual concerns of a new field of painting in Contemporary Art.
Due in part to his previous work as an artist assistant and his presence in the Cologne art scene, Michael Krebber is an artist often positioned in relationship to the notable artists that surrounded him, be it the pastiche and irreverence of Sigmar Poke or Kippenberger’s humor which come through in Krebber’s practice. However, strong references to his artistic contemporaries in his work is something he has tried to distance himself from in developing his style. Michael Krebber when working with Martin Kippenberger did not want to be named as an "assistant" to the artist, but regarded himself as Kippenberger’s "employee". While Kippenberger, only one-year Krebber’s senior, could be considered an artist of the 1970s and 1980’s, Michael Krebber’s practice grew in prominence and relavence in the 1990s and 2000s with his distinctively hesitant, rebellious, light-handed and “conceptually-empty” approach to production. This work was shown in a key period when Krebber was beginning to break out as a significant artist in his own right out of the shadow of Kippenberger and Baselitz and other giants of the Cologne-based art scene.
Learn more about the exhibition in our archive