group Show
Poesie der Elemente
Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen, DE
09.03.2024 – 21.04.2024

Whether philosophy, alchemy, religion, esotericism, natural science, or art: For centuries, various disciplines have been exploring the doctrine of the four elements. The idea that the earth or the entire universe is composed of fire, water, earth, and air already originated in antiquity. According to Aristotle, there is also a fifth element, which he calls ether or quintessence and describes as a non-worldly substance. Nevertheless, the designation of the Four-Element Doctrine prevails, which recognizes in these a primal principle with transformative powers, which is simultaneously dynamic and always valid. This idea remains a significant point of orientation for all knowledge until the Enlightenment. With the advent of new discoveries and insights in the natural sciences, especially in chemistry, the term element is reinterpreted. It now refers to substances that cannot be further separated; the periodic table arranges these.

From today’s perspective, the explanation of the world with the Four-Element Doctrine appears outdated, but the questions that were asked back then remain unresolved: How did the earth and the universe come into being? And is there a principle that conditions everything? What happens after death? These existential questions are certainly a reason for the continuing fascination associated with the four elements. Thus, the search for the quintessence of things drives artists throughout the 20th century. However, their interest also lies in the representability of the invisible, such as air, breathing, or light, as well as the fascination with natural phenomena in general.

In six chapters, the exhibition paints a multifaceted picture of the examination of the elements in the 20th century. Works by Joseph Beuys, Marcelle Cahn, Robert Delaunay, Max Ernst, Gerold Miller, Kazuo Katase, Frantisek Kupka, Alicja Kwade, Roy Lichtenstein, El Lissitzky, Louise Nevelson, Otto Piene, Jackson Pollock, Ljubow Popowa, Thomas Ruff, Anastasia Samoylova and Günther Uecker are presented, among others.