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Online Contemporary Art Magazine

KP BREHMER / Vilma Gold


  • 6 Minerva Street London, England, E2 9EH United Kingdom

KP Brehmer (*1938 – †1997) worked and lived in Berlin and Hamburg and is associated with the Capitalist Realism of the 1960s and 1970s in Germany, working alongside artists such as Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Hans Haake, Wolf Vostell and Marcel Broodthaers. Brehmer he was very interested in communism as well as critical throughout the leftwing movements in the 1960s – so much so that as an act of solidarity he changed his first name (Klaus Peter) to KP when the Communist Party (KPD) was prohibited in 1956.

In his work, Brehmer focused on how to use the potentials of visual aesthetics and mass distribution for a politically engaged art within the changed conditions of production, circulation and consumption in the 20th century. Reflecting POP and Propaganda, Brehmer conceived of image production as a strategy to illustrate objects, subjects, situations and relations, rather than merely depict them. Brehmer advocated for a revolutionary art, in which the artistic product was no longer an individually created unique piece, but a manufactured object, that could be multiplied and distributed widely. In his words, graphic printing could be “Kunst für alle” (Art for everyone).

The work of TV-Braunwerte, 1970 is in relation to a diary of television broadcasts and assessment of political content according to color scales in which brown values are monitored. This is a direct reference to nationalist and fascist tendencies broadcasted on television. This is an interactive work noted by the chalk markings, it engages the viewer and holds artwork the function of a tool to be use in the “reality”. Braunwertskala, 1968 is a colour reference to check political content in newspapers according to color scales of brown values about nationalist and fascist tendencies. These two works are examples of ‘Volkausgabe and Museum Aufgabe’ (Folk Edition and Musum Edition).

Brehmer was interested in thermography, the process can be seen in Starkes Engagement (unten), where white and red areas are high activity of the brain. The painting visualizes its engagement and references the scientific process in relation to social terms. This questions whether emotions and human interactions can be controlled and influenced. KP Brehmer on thermographic pictures: “I have integrated warmth into my work as a new dimension. All bodies radiate warmth in the form of invisible infrared radiation. It can be recorded by infrared devices and converted into images. This is done with highly sensitive detectors that convert the radiated heat into electrical signals that are amplified electronically and appear on a screen. Thermographicpictures (thermographic photographs) look distorted, unreal (compared to normal photographs). Warm objects and living creatures are seen in bright shades (yellow); less warm ones, in dark shades. These pictures are the ‘preliminary images’ for my paintings.”

The two paintings Evolution, 1983 and Wachstum, 1983 depict human skulls in relation to the growth of humans and individual history. Evolution shows how a human skull is developed and in comparison Wachstum shows how a human skull grows during childhood, references can be made in politics and nature. Zeitzonen represents a man- defined system aiming to achieve synchronicity in history, cooperation, globalization. The world is cut into static parts to define zones and timebubbles.

Brehmer’s series of flags steam from the theory of exchange in genetic codes which was discovered in 1866 by Gregor Mendel after noticing changes in seven characteristics of pea plants. A small part of each of Brehmer’s flag are modified to indicate the difficulty of distinguishing national identities, it results in the redefinition of national symbols according to social relations. Brehmers large scale stamps, a mixture of US symbolism and iconography during the time of the Vietnam War exemplifies Brehmer’s occupation with American politics and economy in the 1970s resulted in a series of drawings and prints that invest in the realm of possible intervention and ethic truth, than in statistic correctness.

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