Dirty Jokes: On the Wit of Werner Büttner by Kate Brown

“With the return of dirt comes redemption”1 There’s a dinner party scene in the 1980 experimental novel by Czech writer Milan Kundera On Laughter and Forgetting that sticks in my mind. The devil and an angel are sitting at the table, laughing: The devil laughs first because the world is chaos and the angel, unable to come up with something new and aware that the devil’s laughter is an act against god, begins laughing too, at how beautiful and rational the world is. The two emit the same sound, but the angel’s laugh, which is a bad copy, is laughable to the devil. He laughs louder still. “Those who consider the Devil a partisan of Evil and angels warriors for Good accept the demagogy of the angels,” writes Kundera. “Things are clearly more complicated.”...

Apocryphal By Nature: Werner Büttner and the Theater of Free Will by Jane Ursula Harris

The market-driven art world of the 1980s made mincemeat of art’s revolutionary potential, churning out Wall-Street friendly trends like“ Neo-Geo” and “Neo-Pop”. In a postmodern endgame that decried originality, Neo-Expressionism was both part of this zeitgeist and an exception to it. The initial return to painting it signaled was neither cynical in temperament nor clinical in execution, and recalled instead the spiritual and psychological tenets of Romanticism. Early German practitioners like Jörg Immendorff, Anselm Kiefer, and Georg Baselitz, for example, forged a postwar version of Sturm und Drang that became known as the Neue Wilde group...

From the Lives of Gods to the Good Old Days of the Cold War and After: A Rock Caught between two Hard Places by Sarah James

Amidst the self-aware and self-consciously self-mythologizing statements by Werner Büttner, one origin myth is repeatedly restated in catalogue texts and interviews – the fact the artist was kidnapped by his mother and taken from the socialist German Democratic Republic (GDR) to West Germany in 1961, just before the Berlin Wall initiated the previous year was finally erected. Why does Büttner frame this fleeing or ‘Republikflucht’ (literally ‘desertion from the Republic’ as the East German authorities termed it), and a move so many families and individuals attempted, in terms of a kidnap? Although in-keeping with his penchant for storytelling – a fan of literary satire and farce – and fondness for cultivating shock, this oft-repeated detail in Büttner’s biography subconsciously reveals more of the psychological underbelly of his painterly project than one might first assume...