Werner Berges

Little Stories: Pop Art of the 1960s & 70s

Mar 4th – Apr 8th, 2023

Little Stories: Pop Art of the 1960s & 70s

Little Stories: Pop Art of the 1960s & 70s

Opening: Mar 3, 2023 | 6 – 9 pm

Location: LEVY Berlin, Alt-Moabit 110, 10559 Berlin


»From his artistic beginnings, painter and graphic artist Werner Berges has always been a “soloist”, an outlier in the arts. The artist, born in Cloppenburg in Lower Saxony in 1941, had studied with Johannes Schreiter at the Staatliche Kunstschule in Bremen and, from 1963, with Alexander Camaro at the Hochschule der Künste in West Berlin. It was there, in 1964, that students opened a “self-help” gallery in Großgörschenstrasse–the now well-known Galerie und Künstler-Gruppe Großgörschen 35 (Gallery and Artists Group Großgörschen 35). The project included Hans-Jürgen Diehl, Petrick Sorge, Hermann Albert, Ulrich Baehr, Leiv W. Donnan, Bernd Koberling, Reinhard Lange, Markus Lüpertz, and, starting in 1966, Werner Berges. Großgörschen 35 is notable in two respects: first, we know of no other group of German artists from the 1960s that sparked so much interest, especially among young artists from other art schools; second, all the members of Großgörschen 35, in their figurative, time-related, and critical confrontation with reality, run counter against the mainstream current, which was marked by abstraction and informal painting. 


During the same period, in 1966, when Berges joined the group of artists, for the first time, he presented works, mainly in print, which drew their pictorial repertoire from the contemporary everyday world of commodities. Transforming the attitudes, the gestures, the stylizations from the elegant fashion world as the latest style-defining subject in art was intended to be disconcerting. But Berges had an unmistakable courage and consistency, which to this day mark his oeuvre as unique. They weren’t the provocative pin-ups of American Pop Art, which had been frowned upon in the preceding years in the American visual culture. Berges’ pictures were closer to the elegance of Allen Jones’ figurations of women. Berges was concerned with taking the beautiful outer appearance of our perceivable reality into the artistic medium, in order to evaluate hypocritical beauty against pictorial reinventions. 


The formal reduction of the represented subject, that Berges‘ typifications of women undoubtedly pursue, was, however, a symbol of the avant-garde since the beginning of modern art. As art theorist Rudolf Arnheim already noted in 1965, when Berges had started with his pictorial series, „the form often positions itself between the viewer and the subject of the painting, instead of being absorbed in any content“. This „planned artlessness”, as somebody called it, a supposed „unartistic“ representation, attempts to think of art and life as common, betraying the artificiality of life, but not the autonomy of art.«


(Excerpt from a text by Ludwig Zerull for the Nord /LB catalogue of Werner Berges, Hanover 2005)