Michel Majerus (b. 1967) was born in Luxembourg, and rose to fame as a painter in Berlin in the late 1990s. He died in a plane crash in 2002.
The visual repertoire of the late Michel Majerus is notoriously eclectic, characterised by a dynamism and imagination which was prematurely truncated by his death in 2002. A key figure in a new generation of painters, his work pertains to art and its history, to next generation technologies and consumer culture. Majerus’ multi-faceted aesthetic world is one of Murakami’s cheeky Japanese anime, of Kraftwerk’s pulsating German techno and Lichtenstein’s industrial brushstrokes.
Produced while at the Academy of Fine Art in Stuttgart in the early 1990s, the works in question deal with the concerns of a young artist anxious to find originality and innovation. In untitled (maybe you should annihilate) (1993), animated cartoon figures the likes of Disney become the first of a long parade of visual tributes to contemporary culture. For a creative individual who is troubled by the propensity for art to repeat itself, homage would appear an entirely unlikely mode of expressing oneself. But through homage, Majerus boldly admits that there can be no real advancement in art; using others as building blocks in one’s own creativity is the only viable evolution. In O.T. (collaboration Nr.8) (1999) for example, Majerus wishfully inserts his own artistic presence into the famous collaborations of Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Using acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, Basquiat’s distinctive skeletal figure is superimposed upon Warhol’s General Electric logo. The power of the work lies entirely on the familiarity of its imagery, with Majerus’ ancestors subsequently being brought to life.
Preferring tangential formatting over rigid, strict composition, he soon realised he need not be confined by four edges. The artist goes about removing the frame and canvas, painting directly onto gallery walls, a technique he developed during a year-long sojourn in Los Angeles between 2000-2001. Initiating an aspiring series of large-format paintings, Majerus discovered in LA a physical environment which closely echoed his own anarchic and symbolic imagination. Stimulated by the city’s concurrent obsession with mass media, the artist’s references to pop culture go into overdrive.
Highly active in curating his own shows, Majerus often took to altering architectural spaces to cater to his own aesthetic desires. His later large scale installations pinpoint even more exasperation with the artistic status quo. In September of 2002 Majerus veiled the entire façade of the Brandenburg Gate with the image of a 1970s council estate of the same name. Titled Sozialpalast, the installation leaves only the Quadriga with its four horses in view. The piece is unique in its overt didacticism, evident of a new political dimension if we view Majerus’ artistic oeuvre as a whole, and perhaps indicative of the direction he was heading creatively. But with an individual as complex and versatile as him, it is difficult to legitimately speculate as to the thematic course of his work - were it not for his untimely passing.