Franz Ackermann
Mental Maps - Eikones

14 March – 11 May 2014

Franz Ackermann (born 1963 in Neumarkt St. Veit, Bavaria, Germany) is one of the most innovative and internationally acclaimed painters of the present day. His large, immersive paintings and installations and small-scale works on paper are all characterized by their bold colours, explosive forms, and an inexhaustible wealth of complex image structures. A graduate of the art academies of Munich and Hamburg, Ackermann today divides his time between Berlin and Karlsruhe, where he has taught as professor of painting at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste since 2001. Key to his multifaceted work are his Mental Maps, small watercolours and gouaches that he started producing in 1991 during his numerous journeys and residencies around the world and which often serve as inspirations for larger works. In a fusion of cartographic structures, architectural views, and flourishing ornamentation, he captures his subjective impressions of a particular locale, encapsulating in them the themes of globalization, mobility, and tourism.


For the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Ackermann has now created a site-specific, 18-part work, conceived especially for the display cabinets of the Kupferstichkabinett study room. Ackermann’s labyrinthine and seemingly chaotic compositions stand in startling contrast to the historical cabinets that surround them, filled with five centuries of illustrated books, prints, and drawings, categorized and archived according to scholarly criteria in an art-historical ‘survey of the world’.


The artist dedicates the various display cases to places that are meant to reflect the essential character of the city of Karlsruhe and which sometimes also stand in memory of his own personal experiences. These include the main station, the Hardtwald, the zoo, but also his doner-kebab take-away of choice (Dörfle), as well as non-descript ‘non-places’: underpasses, bridges, and compact transformer stations. These places of local interest feature in the showcases and are combined with pencil drawings, paintings in watercolour and acrylic, and photographs of the many megacities Ackermann has visited over the years. By creating his own works as reliefs with incisions and gaps to peeked through, and by incorporating various additional objects in the display, Ackermann emphasizes the cabinets’ three-dimensional character, their ‘objectness’. Simultaneously, he places his ‘photo albums’ of Karlsruhe in a global context, interweaving personal experience with a contemporary universality.


The dialogue between the global and local contained in the works themselves is continued in the surrounding spaces at the Kunsthalle. In collaboration with museum curators, Ackermann has formed a selection of works by Baden artists active in the 19th century as the wider backdrop for his show. Some 80 works from the collection, depicting subjects from the state of Baden, but also Brazil, France, and Italy, will be on view in the adjoining galleries around the Kupferstichkabinett study room.