What started out as a utopia is today art history. In 1974 a group of international artists was formed, which provisionally called itself System. As artists, they adopted a stance against the Neo-realism of the post-war era that was dominant in Berlin at the time. Having changed their name to Systhema, the thirteen artists – twelve male and one female – provided, in the midst of the realist tendencies, an “Antwort auf einen Mangel” (response to a shortcoming) (Karl Ruhrberg). Their works demanded a connection to an international art term. In the accompanying catalogue for the exhibition by the Künstlergruppe 1978 in Bern, Ruhrberg continues: “Abstract art, from that which tends towards the systematic/constructive to the technical/kinetic in particular, by no means has it easy in Berlin …”.

The Kunstverein KunstHaus Potsdam is delighted that the exhibition “Systhema. Positions of the Concrete”, which was postponed to the summer due to the Corona pandemic, will be showing a retrospective of this erstwhile “cultural combat position” (Richard Paul Lohse) and giving it a fresh treatment. With painters, objects, and a graphic folder from 1978, the exhibition is homage and a reminder of the work by this group of artists. Due to loan items by the internationally renowned Sammlung Grauwinkel, which is based in Kleinmachnow, it will be possible to take a look at their constructive artistic positions at the KunstHaus from 25 July 2021.

The works loaned are from the 1960s and 70s and stem from the period of the joint exhibitions of this artist’s group, among others from 1977 in Helsinki at the Amos Anderson Art Museum and from 1978 in Bern at the Galerie Loeb. At the KunstHaus Potsdam they will be supplemented by a selection of other works by the artists, which will provide insights into their artistic developments and enable references to current art discourse.

Special thanks are also due to the Berlinische Galerie, which complemented the exhibition impressively and historically with the loan of a sculpture of George Rickey Peristyl IV from 1973. Six individual, vertically aligned delicate rod constructions made of steel develop a common movement and dramaturgy by the artist, adding one more rod to each individual object and varying its positions. A draught of air sways the individual rods, changing their orientation without them ever actually moving.

The Systhema artists group found a prominent supporter in the internationally recognised curator and head of the documenta Harald Szeemann, who curated their exhibition there. The well-known constructivist Richard Paul Lohse became a committed trailblazer and friend of the group. In the catalogue for the 1978 exhibition, he wrote: “Immanent to the constructivist art of this period as well as the constructivism of the 1920s is a sense of being socially aligned, not as in a person who demonstrates their worldview but in the sense of art behaving appropriately for the period, which means what it portrays and is born out of its necessity for humanity. Is this less realistic than the illustrative portrayal of the real?”

Thanks to this exhibition, the works of Frank Badur, Andreas Brandt, Stefanos Gazis, Johannes Geccelli, Kristin Gerber, Thomas Kaminsky, Jan Kotík, George Rickey, Christian Roeckenschuss, Klaus J. Schoen, Peter Sedgley and Rudolf Valenta can be rediscovered and interpreted anew.

Frank Badur (born in 1944 in Oranienburg, near Berlin) lives and works in Berlin and Finland. Studied painting at the University for the Fine Arts, Berlin. Since 1973 he has maintained a permanent studio in Finland. In 1979 Badur produced a series of art projects in public spaces. Professorship at the University of the Arts, Berlin. Visiting Professor at the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou. Visiting Artist at Georgia State University, Atlanta. His works have been exhibited at international and group exhibitions including at the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Margaret Thatcher Projects in New York, the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki or at the Kunstmuseum in Stuttgart, and latterly at the Haus Konstruktiv in Zurich (2016). More information can be found at http://www.frankbadur.de/ Andreas Brandt (1935 in Halle, Saale – 2016 in Niebüll, Schleswig-Holstein). He studied at the University of the Fine Arts Berlin under visiting lecturer Ernst Schumacher. In 1977 he was awarded the Berlin Art Prize. His works can be found in numerous public collections such as at the Berlinische Galerie or the Kunsthalle Hamburg. Among others, he has exhibited at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki.

Stefanos Gazis (1943 in Modion, Greece – 2001 in Berlin), studied at the University of the Fine Arts Berlin, individual exhibitions mainly in Berlin (including Gallerie daedalus), participated in exhibitions including at the Fridericianum in Kassel, Goethe Institut in Athens, Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki and at the Haus am Kleistpark in Berlin.

Johannes Geccelli (1925 in Königsberg (Kaliningrad) – 2011 in Jühnsdorf, Teltow-Fläming near Berlin), Studied at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf. Having worked as a visiting lecturer at the University of the Fine Arts in Hamburg from 1964 onwards and a year later as a professor at the University of the Arts in Berlin and in 1980 as a visiting professor at Hunter College in New York City. He maintained a studio in Jühnsdorf from 1994 onwards. Gecelli was the recipient of numerous awards. In 1958 he was awarded the funding prize from the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. In 1960 he was awarded the Villa-Romana-Prize and in 1963 the Ruhrpreis für Kunst und Wissenschaft. In 1998, he was awarded the Lovis-Corinth-Preis. Individual exhibitions including at the Berlin Galerie 2006, he was also involved in an exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki.

Kristin Gerber (born in 1938 in Berlin) lives and works in Berlin and Majorca. He studied painting, etching and reliefs at the Escuela de Bellas Artes of the Universidad de Chile, further studies at the University of the Fine Arts in Munich and the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, and studied Metalwork at the University of the Fine Arts Berlin, Etching at the Atelièr 17 in Paris under S.W. Hayter and at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. In 1982 and 1984 he was a visiting lecturer in Etching at the University of the Arts in Berlin. Since 1970 she has taught Etching, Design, and Jewellery-making in Berlin. 1978 DAAD scholarship in New York. Several international individual and group exhibitions including at the PS1 in New York and the Galerie Petersen in Berlin, at the Biennale de Paris and at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki. Find more information at http://www.enzde.de/kg/me/me.html

Thomas Kaminsky (born in 1945 in Dresden) lives and works in Cologne and Vienna. Studied in Berlin under Hann Trier. 1973 DAAD scholarship, Paris, 1977 Karl-Schmidt-Rottluff scholarship 1979 VillaMassimo scholarship Rome. Has been involved in exhibitions since 1970, among others at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki. More info available at https://thomaskaminsky.de

Jan Kotík (1916 in Turnov/Bohemia – 2002 in Berlin), studied at the University for Applied Art, Prague under Prof. J. Benda. From 1941–1945, he was banned from exhibiting by the National Socialists as a “degenerate” artist. From 1948–1955, he was banned from exhibiting during the Stalinist era. He was a jury member of the Triennale in Milan. In 1964 he represented Czechoslovakia at the Biennale in Vienna. He was a guest of the DAAD in 1969 with an annual scholarship for West Berlin. He was a member of the Deutscher Künstlerbund (German Artists’ Federation) from 1975. In 1978/79, Kotík took part in room-based exhibitions and individual variants of the “Lützowstraße situations” (later known as “Büro Berlin”). In 1990–1991 he held a visiting professorship at the Academy of the 4 Fine Arts, Prague. Numerous international individual and group exhibitions, for example, at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki and the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein.

George Rickey (born in 1908 in South Bend, Indiana, USA – 2002 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA), studied history until 1941 in Oxford, after which he studied at various art academies in Paris. 1933 saw the first solo exhibition showing works by Rickey in the Caz-Delbo Gallery, New York. He received a DAAD scholarship in Berlin. In the 1960s, exhibitions of his work followed at renowned museums in Germany such as in the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, in the Haus am Waldsee in Berlin and in the Kestner Society in Hanover as well as international exhibitions such in the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki and latterly in the Indianapolis Art Center (2009). His works can be found in international collections, for example in the Bavarian State Painting Collections in Munich, in the Berlinische Galerie, the Hamburger Kunsthalle, at London Tate Gallery or in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Christian Roeckenschuss (1920 in Dresden – 2011 in Berlin), studied music in Dresden and painting at the University for Fine Arts, Berlin under Hans Uhlmann and Alexander Camaro. In 1956 he received a scholarship from the Institut Français, Berlin (university year spent in Paris). In 1963 he was awarded the Kunstpreis vom Kulturkreis in the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (Association for German Industry, Cologne), on the occasion of the “ars viva”. In 1964, he was invited to the USA and on a study trip to Mexico. His international solo and group exhibitions include at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki, Mies van der Rohe Haus Berlin or at Köppe Contemporary Berlin.

Klaus J. Schoen (born in 1931 in Königsberg/Kaliningrad – 2018 in Berlin) started studying in 1951 at the University for Applied Art in East Berlin before, a year later, switching to the University for Fine Arts in West Berlin (master-class student of Ernst Schumacher). He had numerous individual and group exhibitions in Germany and abroad for instance in Mies van der Rohe Haus in Berlin or Kunsthalle Messmer in Riegel am Kaiserstuhl.

Peter Sedgley (born in 1930 in London) lives and works in Berlin. He studied Architecture in London, taught himself to paint and devoted himself to painting from 1963 onwards. Together with the artist Bridget Riley, he founded the non-profit organisations S.P.A.C.E. and A.I.R between 1968–1970. In 1971 he received a DAAD scholarship for Berlin, and he has had international solo exhibitions at the Academy of Arts in Berlin, Neuberger Museum of Art, New York or Redfern Gallery in London; he has participated in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (The Responsive Eye), the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki or in the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

Rudolf Valenta (born 1929 in Prague – 2015 in Berlin) was a guest of DAAD in Berlin in 1974. He participated in international exhibitions at the Amos Anderson Art Museum in Helsinki, the Haus am Kleistpark in Berlin, Gallery Zavodny, Mikulov, Czechia and also at the Kunstverein KunstHaus Potsdam.