Vera Mercer's opulent and sensuous photos welcome visitors to the Erholungshaus at the start of our new season. Her large-format still life works are composed from the classic accessories of her genre: reflecting glasses, bright flowers, shiny bowls, candles, fish and game, fruit and vegetables are combined to form images of “nature mort”. Luxuriant and sensuous opulence and materiality reminiscent of baroque splendor are combined with irritating realism and moments of transience. Vera Mercer’s approach transcends photographic fashion. She did not have any conventional training in photography; her photography evolved from her life. Her resume is characteristic of many female artists of her generation. Consequently, we are not presenting Vera Mercer simply as a great photographer; she is also an artistic model for our theme: women. Daughter of the well-known Berlin theater set designer Franz Mertz, Vera Mercer was born in Berlin in 1936. Looking back, she said that this milieu was the defining influence of her work. As a young woman, she married assistant theater director Daniel Spoerri and they moved to Paris, where they quickly became part of the avant garde art movement known as the “Nouveaux Realistes”. Vera Mercer initially played a supporting role: she portrayed Marcel Duchamp and Robert Filliou, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Jean Tinguely and Spoerri and photographed their artworks. It was only after her marriage ended that she discovered her own artistic style with the large-format murals for buildings and distinctive still life artworks.
The second exhibition of the season is dedicated to Max Scheler, who was born in Cologne in 1928 as the son of the philosopher of the same name. He was one of the most important photo journalists of the new German photographic scene in the post-war period. The exhibition From Konrad A. to Jackie O. shows a cross-section of his photo-journalism in the 1950s and 1960s. The exhibition centers on three representative historical venues that continue to dominate our age: Germany, the USA and China. The exhibition shows Germany's “economic miracle” and the division of the country, the ideological upheaval and cult of Mao in China, and a highly contradictory “New World” – the USA in the post-war period. Alongside historical events and well-known personalities, Max Scheler's multi-facetted photos from the 1950s and 1960s provide insights into everyday life.
It is an exceptional honor for us to be able to present this exhibition in Leverkusen: it has already been shown to great acclaim in the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg and the Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin.
That rounds out our year of photographic statements – by Achim Lippoth (2016/17 season), Vera Mercer and Max Scheler – exhibitions that provide insights into the artistic possibilities of photography and the diversity of the medium, which has undisputedly emancipated itself to become one of the most important pictorial media of contemporary art.
Naturally, this season's third exhibition is once again dedicated to upcoming artists. As part of our series An invitation to art colleges we have secured a visit by the Weißensee art academy of Berlin, one of the most interesting and renowned art colleges in Germany. Professor Friederike Feldmann has been teaching at this college since 2012 and will be staging works with students from Berlin in the Erholulngshaus in 2018. Works from various disciplines at the Weißensee art academy will be presented. As a special highlight, the plans include murals, which will be specially designed for the Erholungshaus and created on site. We can therefore look forward to some really up-to-date work and a completely new perspective on familiar spaces.