One Day on Success Street: Thomas Bayrle Show in Miami Sponsored by Deutsche Bank

In the 1960s, Thomas Bayrle began his career as a pioneer of a specific German version of Pop Art. Later he taught future art stars at the Städel School in Frankfurt, including Tobias Rehberger and Sergej Jensen. Since his major retrospective “40 Years of Rock’n’Roll” at the MMK, Bayrle’s work has also been discovered internationally. Now the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami is presenting his first museum show in the USA.
The monumental sculpture of a Madonna with child – Thomas Bayrle welcomes visitors to his exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Miami with a motif from classical art history. This may seem surprising, inasmuch as the Frankfurt-based artist is generally associated with the aesthetics of industrial mass production. But don’t worry. The 79-year-old hasn’t become sentimental. The Mother of God he conceived expressly for the ICA’s Atrium Gallery consists of dark, bent steel pipes. His largest sculpture to date looks like a three-dimensional object based on a preparatory sketch done at the computer. In this way, Bayrle has added an iconic image of Christian to his cosmos. And it’s not the first time that he has combined technoid objects and religion. At the 2012 documenta, he showed cut-open aircraft and automobile engines in operation, accompanied by a soundtrack consisting of prayers and devotionals. “The interior of the engines is akin to the greatness of cathedrals,” says Bayrle, “because the absolute efficiency that prevails in such a machine is just as great as a Gothic nave.”  

Bayrle is fascinated by technology, as well as by industrial mass production and the world of advertising and consumer goods. Since the 1960s, he has arranged battalions of identical tin cans, shoes, and airplanes into so-called “super forms”: one car is composed of hundreds of cars, the head of a factory owner of hundreds of pictogram-like pictures of factories. Grids, series, and repetitions are his trademarks. He does not used symbols of consumer culture, however, but “icons of communism” – Stalin, Mao, and Chinese Red Guards marching in sync. At that time, he was primarily interested in the “mass ornament.” “I scarcely paid attention to ideological differences and mixed – despite the protests of my leftwing friends – communist and capitalist elements and subject matter together,” the artist explains, looking back. “In my imagination, East and West were woven into the same fabric like warp and weft.” This statement also alludes to his apprenticeship as a weaver, which had a lasting impact on his artistic work. “I see everything as a fabric. The individual is the thread, the masses are the material.”

In Bayrle’s ornamental paintings and prints, Pop and Op Art meld. In keeping with the zeitgeist of the 1960s, he also printed plastic raincoats and wallpaper with his multiplied motifs. Rarely has German art looked as cool and casual as in Bayrle’s work – or that of his friend Peter Roehr, the other important Pop protagonist from Frankfurt, who also worked serially. Later Bayrle was one of the first German artists to experiment with computer graphics and animation.

The show at the ICA, which bears the optimistic title One Day on Success Street, traces Bayrle’s almost fifty-year career. On view are paintings and prints, as well as sculptures, videos, and collages. Deutsche Bank has long been closely connected to the artist and sponsored Bayrle’s first museum exhibition in the USA. And the bank lent some of the more than 100 Bayrle works in its collection for One Day on Success Street. An early work by artist in the collection is currently on exhibit in Postwar, a panorama of international art after 1945 at the Haus der Kunst in Munich. There the Lenbachhaus is also presenting a retrospectice of the artist that includes all of the “engines” he has made so far, for which Bayrle received the Arnold-Bode-Preis for his presentation at documenta 13.    

Thomas Bayrle. One Day on Success Street
11/29/2016 – 3/26/2017
Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami

Thomas Bayrle
12/13/2016 – 3/5/2017
Lenbachhaus, Munich