Thomas Bayrle, Madonna Croche, 1988, Silkscreen on cloth, 216 × 160 cm, Edition of 21 plus III AP
Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin
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  • Silkscreen on cloth
  • 216 × 160 cm
    (85 × 63 inches)
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  • Thomas Bayrle is a German artist who—working between painting, graphics, printmaking, and technology—has highlighted the interplay between serial production processes and symbols and icons of consumerism in mass culture. After an apprenticeship as a weaver in Göppingen and with an interest in pattern design, he continued his studies in Offenbach, turning to printmaking. In 1961, together with Bernhard Jäger, he founded the publishing house Gulliver-Presse, specialized in refined artist books. During this time, he developed his primary pictorial form based on the rhythmic repetition of miniature visual elements reconfigured to create larger compositions. Inspired as much by Pop Art as by the philosophy of the Frankfurt School, Bayrle’s so-called “superforms” represent a debunking metaphor for capitalist society with its tendency towards accumulation, oversaturation, serial duplication, and consumerism. The subjects of these works vary, as does the relationship between the “superform” and its small components. Everyday objects or symbols of mass culture are often presented as optical aggregates of the same undersized object, as in the silkscreens Maggi (1980) and Lufthansa (1980). At the same time, in works such as Madonna Mercedes (1989), a Madonna and Child composed of many miniatured Mercedes automobiles, Bayrle virtually merges religious iconography with pop cultural myth. From 1969 to 1972, Bayrle headed the creative studio Bayrle & Kellermann – The Makers of Display together with Hans Jörg Kellermann, working on advertisements for Ferrero sweets and fashion designers such as Pierre Cardin. Beginning in 1972, Bayrle was a beloved professor at the Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main for nearly thirty years, teaching generations of students while continuing to revise and reinvent his own methodologies. Bayrle’s oeuvre also includes large-scale compositions, wallpapers, sculptures, and three-dimensional objects, as well as computer-generated images. Throughout his career, Bayrle has received numerous awards and honors, including the Prix Ars Electronica (1995), the KUNSTKÖLN Prize (2000, since 2006, the Cologne Fine Art Prize), and the Arnold Bode Prize (2012). He has taken part in three editions of documenta (1964, 1977, 2012) and has had major retrospectives at the MACBA – Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2009), the MAK – Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (2017), and The New Museum, New York (2018).

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