Karl Otto Götz is a German artist who is best known for his spontaneous abstract painting in the Informel ('art without form') style. Important elements in his surrealist-influenced work are a spontaneous abstract creativity and the manual rendering of automatically created randomly generated images.
Born in Aachen, Germany, Götz began painting while at secondary school. In 1930 he began painting abstracts and then experimented with collages. After the National Socialists came to power in Germany official disapproval of his abstract splash paintings and surrealistic works led to Götz being banned from painting and exhibiting in Nazi Germany. He survived by selling landscape paintings to tourists.
During World War II, Götz was drafted into the army but was nevertheless able to continue his studies and meet fellow artists. It was while serving as a soldier during the War that Götz developed an interest in the aesthetics of radar images. Early experimentation eventually led (1960 onwards) to an interest in producing "electron paintings" that would emulate the form of an animated television picture, using large rastered images generated by a computer programme and then painted by hand. Götz's early post-War work included extensive experimentation with techniques and imagery in prints and drawings that included drawings made using an airpump. He produced woodcuts and watercolours that featured fantastical plant forms and creatures, among them a series of monotype prints of bird-humans. During the late 1940s he continued to producing abstract-figurative monotypes and surrealistic experimental photo works, but his painting became predominantly abstract. He gave up figurative art in 1949, the year he was invited to join the COBRA group.
The work of the COBRA group contributed to the emergence of Art Informel in the period after 1950 as a "universal language" for European artists involved in the development of European abstract expressionism and Tachisme. In 1952 Götz was one of the four co-founders, with Otto Greis, Heinz Kreutz and Bernard Schultze, of the Frankfurt 'Quadriga', a group of artists painting in a Tachist style influenced by Wols and Automatism. During the group's brief existence, before the divergence of its loosely associated members' artistic development led to its dissolution in 1954, Quadriga played an important pioneer role in introducing Art informel to Germany. As Götz moved away from clearly defined forms, his approach to painting became more dynamic. In a technique Götz has continued to use throughout his later painting career, the image is developed through a lengthy, intense process, often involving a large number of preliminary sketches and gouaches. Once the preparation is complete, the artist applies dark paint onto a light background with a paintbrush, working in a fast and focused way. The paint is then "raked" - partially removed using a type of spatula known as a "rake" - before the contrast between the light and dark areas of the still-moist surface is softened using a dry paintbrush.
Götz's contemporary work (2010) features deeply colored abstract collages and hand-painted pieces based on a computer-generated random pixelation process. From 1948 to 1953 Götz co-published the magazine Meta and between 1959 and 1979 he was a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf. Amongst the artists Götz's work has influenced are Nam June Paik and Götz's students at the Kunstakademie, including Gotthard Graubner, HA Schult, Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, and others.
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