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Ackland Art Museum’s newest exhibitions to focus on modern Germany

It’s 1960.

Nearly 20 years after World War II, the people of Germany began to grapple with issues of national identity—and it shows through their art.

Tonight, the Ackland Art Museum is opening its newest exhibitions, both of which explore modern Germany.

“De-Natured: German Art from Joseph Beuys to Martin Kippenberger” and “Romantic Dreams, Rude Awakenings: Northern European Prints and Drawings, 1840-1940” feature mixed medium works from German artists.

Emily Bowles, director of communications at the Ackland, said that all of the artists featured in “De-Natured” grew up during World War II or the Cold War.

“It’s mainly art that comes out of a shared cultural experience,” Bowles said. “They all work with representation, national identity and instability.”

Richard Langston, a professor in UNC’s Germanic languages department who specializes in postwar German literature and media, said that the featured artists focus on the role of art within society.

“All of these artists are very much vetted to what role art can play,” Langston said. “They’re thinking about the place of art in our daily lives.”

The work of Joseph Beuys is the earliest of those that will be featured in the exhibition. Beuys used felt as a medium and many of his pieces have a political tinge.

“He is a challenge that artists want to rise to,” said Ackland chief curator Peter Nisbet. “He is not their rival, but he sets the standard in many ways.”

The photography of Hilla and Bernd Becher will also be featured at the exhibition. The photos displayed are all of German industrial buildings and are presented as one piece in a grid.

“They single-handedly created a new kind of photography, a patently German kind,” Langston said.

Nisbet also said that the photographs of Hilla and Bernd Becher have a deeper meaning beyond their aesthetic value.

“It becomes a project to record these disappearing forms of technology,” he said.

Along with the art in the museum, the Art Now/Cinema Now series — which presents films sponsored by the Ackland and the Interdisciplinary Program in Cinema at UNC — will screen four German films.

“These are some of the world’s most important and creative directors, dealing with questions about how you think about and represent the mechanisms via which history operates,” said Richard Cante, director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Cinema at UNC.

Langston said the conjunctive collections provide UNC students with a unique opportunity.

“This is unprecedented for Ackland to have this kind of art,” he said. “This is a top-tier collection that has been brought to Carolina for students to enjoy.”

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