From 1937–1944, Germany’s Nazi regime engaged in cultural practices including the curation of large-scale exhibitions entitled the Great German Art Exhibitions (Große Deutsche Kunstausstellungen [GDK]). Indicative of the regime’s ideology, these exhibitions, which took place in Munich, included artworks that were collected by elite members of German society at that time. Documentation of these exhibitions have been compiled by GDK Research, who “publishes unknown photographic documents—evidence of art that was subsidized by the state during the NS era—in order to make source material available for critical discussion and analysis of the Nazi regime’s art and cultural policies.” The primary source material of A Strange New Beauty is this expansive photographic archive.
Brauntuch’s exploration of this archive allows the imagery of the Great German Art Exhibitions to generate new meaning within our current socio-political climate. Manipulations of these images paired with fashion advertisements from major newspaper publications lead one to consider how ideology can transcend generations and normalize into quotidian spaces. A Strange New Beauty in many ways acts as a “re-archiving” of the GDK chronicles within Brauntuch’s visual practice. Brauntuch’s manipulations, deletions, and additions of information to the images that went on to become the central works of this exhibition, exposes the ease by which information in sensitive archives can be manipulated and referenced at later points in time, as truth.
Using techniques such as industrial letterpress printing, traditional photographic processes, and metal image substrates such as magnesium, the image production of this exhibition mimics the reproduction methods of early 20th century Europe. In fusing these processes with digital image manipulations, a conversation with historical narratives and political movements past and present is the undercurrent of Brauntuch’s work in A Strange New Beauty.
“I’m certainly respecting history but I’m also accepting it as my found object—my way of looking at something,” Brauntuch told Allie Biswas of The Brooklyn Rail in 2016. “I think I am reusing something that operates in the world, and I am finding this strange beautiful setting that allows it to be re-presented and allows it to be beautiful.”
Born in 1954 in New Jersey, Troy Brauntuch graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He currently divides his time between New York, NY and Austin, TX. His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally for over forty years.
Brauntuch exhibited in the seminal show “Pictures” at Artists Space in 1977 in New York, along with Jack Goldstein, Robert Longo, Philip Smith, and Sherrie Levine. His works are held in numerous private and public collections including the Pinault Foundation in Paris; The Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Dallas Museum of Art; The San Diego Contemporary Arts Museum; and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Brauntuch’s work was included in “Day for Night,” the 2006 Whitney Biennial in New York. In the summer of 2007 a survey exhibition of his work from 1990–2007 was exhibited at the Magasin-Centre National d’Art Contemporain in Grenoble, France. In 2009, his work was included in “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984,” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2010, JRP/Ringier published a monograph book of works from 1975–2008. His work was recently featured in “Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts” at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, Germany, which travels to the Kunsthaus Graz in Austria in 2020.