Co-published with Sabine Knust, Munich, Germany
The series of large linocuts marked, perhaps, a new beginning for Baselitz. Im Wald und auf der Heide was, curiously, a mixture of both upside-down and non-inverted motifs. Around the same time as working on the linocuts, Baselitz embarked on a new major group of works to which he gave the overall title Remix.
In an unprecedented experiment of reassessment, Baselitz set out to revisit and return to key works of his past. His Remix paintings and drawings were not humble recapitulations of his past achievements, but compelling and completely fresh reinterpretations. This project culminated in major Remix exhibitions in Munich and Vienna. For Baselitz, so used to printmaking as a means of his artistic expression, the Remix series of etchings is the logical continuation of this cycle.
As with the linocuts, Baselitz made all the plates for the etchings himself, in his new studio in Munich during 2006. It was his wish that his project should be co-published in Munich, by Sabine Knust, with whom Baselitz had worked since the late 1980s, and in London by Charles Booth-Clibborn. In the spring of 2007 the plates were sent to Niels Borch Jensen’s Vaerkstadt for Kobbertryk in Copenhagen and editioned by Borch Jensen and Mette Ulstrup. Baselitz had sent detailed instructions with the plates as to how he would like them to be printed, including photographs of his own proofs. No new plates were made, but new proofs sent back and forth between Copenhagen and Munich until Baselitz signed them off to be editioned. Prior to printing, each plate was hand-coloured using a tone plate. This was inked up, using a roller and brushes, in yellow, or yellow and red in the case of Die Hand – Das brennende Haus (Remix). In making the plates Baselitz used a range of etching techniques, including aquatint, drypoint and soft-ground.
The Remix etchings are a condensed compilation of Baselitz’s Remix paintings. Baselitz begins and ends the series with two versions of Die große Nacht im Eimer (Remix). The original painting (now in the Museum Ludwig in Cologne) caused a furore when it was first exhibited in Berlin in 1963. German state prosecutors had seized the painting, depicting – in putrid colours – a boy masturbating, on grounds of obscenity and violation of moral decency. In the revised etched versions Baselitz has shifted his focus from the gigantic penis to the head of the figure, which in a further twist now clearly delineates the features of Adolf Hitler with his trademark side parting and moustache. Baselitz has placed Hitler in a puddle of blood emanating from his feet, and in the first etching of the subject has transformed a piece of rock behind the ‘Hitler’ into a human skull. An overt reference to Nazi Germany, the war and the holocaust is also apparent in Die Ährenleserin (The Gleaner). In the etching, based on an earlier painting of 1978 (now at the Guggenheim in New York), Baselitz has drawn a group of counter-clockwise swastikas in a little square in the lower part of the composition. The painting made no such direct reference. The gleaner, a motif originally taken from Jean-François Millet’s (1817–75) painting of 1857, here becomes both gleaner of the fields and ‘Trümmerfrau’, a woman clearing away the rubble after the war, the subject of another painting of 1978 (now in the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven). The images of the Remix etchings are bound together by Baselitz’s German identity and rooted in the history and politics of his country. The most dramatic image of the series is Die Hand – Das brennende Haus, which is also based on paintings from the 1960s. Whereas the paintings had dark and earthy tones, here Baselitz sketches the subject with a few ferocious lines and heats up the motif to a point at which not just the house but the hand itself seems engulfed in flames.