127.5 x 126.4 x 4 cm
Gouache and oil on canvas, aluminum
Collection Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Donated by Das Progressive Museum Basel
Rot auf Grün und Schwarz [Red on green and black]
Günter Fruhtrunk (born 1923 in Munich Germany, where he died in 1982) was an artist with a trademark aesthetic based on stripes. He repeated and varied this theme in countless graphic artworks, art in architecture projects, and pictures. His most famous work, copies of which number in the millions today, is his design for a plastic shopping bag for Aldi from 1970, with its dark blue and white diagonals.
When Günter Fruhtrunk committed suicide in his studio at the Academy of Art in Munich in December 1982, his last painting “Sinnenfundament” [Foundation of Meaning] was still on the easel. It is a magnificent picture that speaks of danger, fragility, sensitivity, and beauty. Spanning between Fruhtrunk’s last work that exemplifies his fundamental approach toward art and his earlier, more tentative works are years of artistic struggle and failure to fulfill his own aspirations.
While Fruhtrunk’s early works were still influenced by Kazimir Malevich’s legacy, in the late 1960s the artist began depicting color harmonies and resonance in straight, horizontal, vertical, and diagonal stripes. Then, from the late 1970s on, the colors became brighter and more intense, while the means of expression became more reduced. Toward the end of his career, Fruhtrunk began to paint freehand, creating compositions of diagonal stripes that were painted on the canvas with open, spontaneous gestures, invoking a feeling of instability and bottomlessness.
While stricter Concrete and Constructivist styles – like, for example that of the Zurich Concretes – had rationalist structures, Fruhtrunk’s geometries of color cannot be calculated, especially since he allowed color to define form. He used geometry only to lend the autonomous color a kind of order. This could explain why his compositional principles cannot be decoded, why the pictorial logic remains just out of reach for the beholder, and why the apparently systematic basis for his composition is only simulated. This “Unmöglichkeit des Gesichertseins”[Impossibility of Certainty] expressed in Fruhtrunk’s last work was, according to the artist, his “Sinnenfundament.”
Dominique von Burg