the themes

The nrw museums platform’s 15 curated themes follow the guiding themes of modern and contemporary art. Virtual exhibitions set out our numerous artworks, connected by content and form. Stroll through the themed rooms. Explore the variety of artistic positions taken up by 20th and 21st century art. The themes do not follow a purely stylistic classification; instead, they collect the broad spectrum of engagement with each of the subject areas:

The theme of Image & Ornament spans a time period from cubism and early abstract art right up to the 1980s. Whether this is due to a high level of abstraction, the use of solid areas of colour, having little or no pictorial depth, or a rhythmical composition, there is something ornamental about every work.

The theme of Colour / Modulation shows artists engaging with the perception and effect of colour. Everybody is aware of the signal sent by using the colour red in a stop sign at the side of the road, or the effectiveness of certain colour combinations in advertising. Many artists have been occupied by experimentation with the colour scale and individual colour values, and questioned the interplay of colours between themselves.

The keyword Gestural embraces painters for whom the act of painting itself plays a significant and determining role in the creative outcome. Paint applied expressively, rapidly, created by equally dynamic physical activity, makes up the main body of this selection.

The area of  Construction is concerned with diverse works of modern and contemporary art that are committed to mathematical and geometrical underlying structures and systems. These systemisations are often based on intellectual theories or manifested ideologies, about which you can learn more by analysing the individual artworks.

The wide field of conceptual art, which defines the mental process and intellectual action as the artwork, rather than the physical artistic output, is represented by many varied works in the Concepts theme. But how does a work develop when, after the mental decision making has been done in advance, in Sol LeWitt’s words »execution becomes a purely mechanical affair«?

In the contemporary art, Light & Motion are understood to be fully-fledged aesthetic media in their own right. In the works this theme introduces, light does more than just influencing our visual perceptions – it becomes the artist’s very »paint«. The alteration of form and perception through movement is used and reflected as a design medium. Die Veränderung von Form und Wahrnehmung durch Bewegung wird als Gestaltungsmittel eingesetzt und reflektiert.

As well as light and movement, design qualities are ascribed to the Material itself. Choosing a material involves decision making in relation to both aesthetics and content. Many works consider and address the properties concealed within materiality. They enquire into the role of the material for the work, or even raise the specific properties of the material to a formative category.

Performance is a form of artistic act that grew out of action art in the early 60s, yet because of its open structure it is hard to define comprehensively. Often, time-limited performances are staged in an intensely physical way, with the aim of giving the viewer a sensory experience. These examples will help you discover more about the performative in art.

The very choice of title for the Process / Action theme demonstrates that a temporal or active component is a decisive element of these works. Here, via Fluxus artists and happenings, we show you the historical watershed after which the classical media of art were abandoned.

With the feminist discourse of the 70s and the development of gender studies, the theme of Sex & Gender also gained a central significance in art. Artistic engagements with societal gender roles and attributions are therefore »exhibited« in their own subject area. You will find other politically motivated or socio-critical works under the theme of Art & Politics

In 20th century art, space was increasingly understood to be more than just the bare environment of an artwork; likewise, its effect on the work came to be reflected. Every space, whether municipal, private or virtual, has its own qualities. As well as being of significance for the work, these can be influenced, negated, underlined or investigated by the work. The theme of [Urban Space] brings together a variety of positions under this heading.

The title Art & Technology refers to art’s engagement with the medium in itself. At the same time, it also specifically implies the use and thematisation of technical media. The wide variety of selected works lays open the promise held out by such an ambiguous title.

Past and future – retrospective and preview – subject and image. The theme of Traditions / Perspektives unites almost the entire chronological span of the 20th century. This comprehensive exhibition highlights the wide spectrum of figurative representation. The visual answers to the question of how human beings can be seen and portrayed always repay a detailed examination.

A Sign is something that points beyond itself, something in which an extra meaning is inherent. It is a textual or pictorial representation of something else. This theme emphasises the fact that by consciously using a traditional sign, or generating a new one, an artist is simultaneously reflecting its operating mechanisms.

Bildrechte: Calder Foundation New York / Foto Stiftung Lehmbruck Museum Bildrechte: gemeinfrei, Foto: Peter Hinschläger Foto: Tobias Roch, Hagen Bildrechte: VG Bild Kunst, Bonn 2014

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