eugene von bruenchenhein
Eugene von Bruenchenhein (1910-1983), a simple baker from Milwaukee, believed that his birth during the year of the passage of Halley’s Comet was irrefutable proof that the gods had bestowed him with artistic genius. “I come from another world,” he would say.
He began producing a substantial body of paintings, sculptures (for which he used chicken bones) and photographs. It was through his photographs that his reknown spread beyond the circles of aficionados of Art Brut. They are prominently featured at the current Venice Biennale and recently an entire room was devoted to his work at the Hayward Gallery’s An Alternative Guide to the Universe in London.
In 2004 in San Francisco, his photography was shown at the YBCA’s Create and be Recognized, Photography on the Edge with that of other unclassifiable photographers, including Miroslav Tichy and Lee Godie. This spotlight also helped to free Art Brut from the dogma that excluded photography, music, and even video and computer graphics despite the democratization of these practices which encouraged new ways of using them.
Von Bruenchenhein, in the fashion of Alfred Stieglitz, transformed his wife into a new Georgia O’Keeffe. His photographs attest to his devotion to Marie and their clearly visible complicity goes beyond the relationship of a Pygmalion to his pin-up. Their amourous games, intertwined with fetishism, transgressed Mid-West customs even as they offered a domestic version of modes of representation of post war eroticism–a troubling American Beauty.
Eugene von Bruenchenhein, a humble baker from Milwaukee, believed that being born in the year of the passage of Halley’s Comet was irrefutable proof that the gods had endowed him with artistic genius. In 1943, he married Eveline Kalke, who was 10 years younger than him, and she became his muse, inspirer, and subject, directly or indirectly, of all his art. He renamed her Marie. Photography then became his primary mode of expression: he created hundreds of portraits of Marie adorned with different attributes. Marie becomes, by turns, a goddess, queen, star, seductress, or ingenue. In 2013, these photographs were featured at the Venice Biennale, while an entire room was dedicated to him in the exhibition An Alternative Guide to The Universe at the Hayward Gallery in London.
Preface : Adrian Dannatt
Foreword : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Eugene Von Bruenchenhein : american beauty, from october 18th to november 23th, 2013.