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Don Van Vliet

06.07.2024 - 31.08.2024
Don Van Vliet, Red Cloud Monkey, 1985, Öl auf Leinwand, 213 x 183 cm

The exhibition Don Van Vliet opens on Friday, 5 July 2024 from 6 - 9 p.m. It will be shown at Galerie Michael Werner in Berlin until 31 August 2024.

 Accompanying publication to the exhibition: Don Van Vliet "Ralf Love Don" 2021, Michael Werner Kunsthandel Cologne.

At the suggestion of A.R. Penck, Don Van Vliet (1941-2010) is appearing at Galerie Michael 
Werner. The east German artist wants at long last to meet the originator of the legendary 1969 
double LP Trout Mask Replica and encounters a US painter who conducts his brush with the same 
disciplined groove as he did his band. The Californian embodies the refined instinctive mindset 
that A.R. Penck considers the contemporary shape of genius. In the world of music, Van Vliet 
aka Captain Beefheart took that traditional North American path that combines Blues and 
avantgarde Rock. His path to painting, by contrast, reflects Nordic Modernism in Europe. The 
“Van” in his name as a painter is something he borrows from the one in van Gogh’s name. What 
he admires is the latter’s artistic stance: Like van Gogh, Van Vliet is a self-taught painter and has 
thus avoided getting caught up in the tug of the mainstream. His school friend Frank Zappa was 
in fact offered a scholarship for the applied arts while still a child as his sculptures and drawings 
of animals were so convincing. Initially, painting was simply something that accompanied Van 
Vliet on his music career. In-between tours and rehearsals he picked up as brush, and even has 
gone so far as to produce portraits of his band members while on stage whenever he has stopped 
acting as leader of the band. His took his decision to dedicate himself exclusively to music in the 
mid-1980s at the time when he first met A.R. Penck and the other artists at Galerie Werner. Van 
Vliet, who grew up in the Mojave Desert, and lives with his wife Janet in the solitude of North 
California’s Humboldt Bay, has dared to create something new. Because in the USA painting has 
otherwise been a phenomenon of urbanity and gets explored and structured in the blaring streets 
of art-hub New York. Van Vliet, by contrast, reactivates the creative power of the desert, in 
whose silent surroundings humans encounter not only coyotes, crows, rattlesnakes, and the wind, 
but also themselves. There, existence is expressed in the groove of our ur-language: “…liddle 
wijouh widdlewilüü badidlidl widuhwwuhh…”. Van Vliet is a fluent past master in this ur-
language – and it is mirrored in his painting. A.R. Penck considers the sensitivity to this to be 
“very American, very Western, and very modern”. The Californian’s paintings show how the 
freedom afforded by the US right to bear arms extends to the right to put brush and paint to 

Selected works

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