This richly illustrated monograph is the first extensive study dedicated to artistic positions in the GDR during the 1950s and 1960s that have been marginalized or barely exist in the contemporary canon or in public consciousness. It focuses on artists who were repeatedly reproached for adhering to “formalism.” The portrayal of this early art opposition (which did not necessary accompany a political agenda) vividly demonstrates how purposefully and confidently painters and graphic artists adhered to the autonomy of art, as those in power during the Stalinist cultural politics of the Ulbricht era demanded from them conformity with state-approved Socialist Realism. Artists – including Achim Freyer, Dieter Goltzsche, Hanfried Schulz and Horst Zickelbein – were searching for a connection,both in classical Modern Art as well as in contemporary international Modernism, and they successively contributed to a loosening of the artistic corset through their boldness and by persistently pushing boundaries.
The examination of representative images and discussion of the genesis of exemplary art works provides a differentiated view of art production in the GDR. This study is less concerned with art politics, but instead allows the works themselves to become the subject of questioning and assessment.