Gerhard Altenbourg

Altenbourg spent his life in creative seclusion, living far away from the artistic centers of East Germany and withdrawn from the political affairs of the GDR. Composed of precisely placed and layered minute marks, fine textures, lush colors, and tightly woven shapes, this monumental work exemplifies the artist’s meditative, prolonged drawing process. As he often did, Altenbourg purposefully left the subject matter ambiguous. Hui and phui, mentioned in the title, might refer to the German saying “beauty above, ugliness below” (oben hui, unten pfui), thus implying a tension between admiration and disgust.

Gerhard Altenbourg
German, 1926–1989
Hui, Pfauh and Phui et cetera, 1965
Watercolor and india ink on Japan paper prepared with chalk ground
INV. NO. C 1966-148
© Kupferstich-Kabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden © Stiftung Gerhard Altenbourg, Altenburg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2021
Photo: Andreas Diesend