« An industrialized world needs an industrialized handwriting. » This credo illuminates Georg Ettl’s artistic language and expression.The artist and philosopher took the content of his art much further. He reflected a world in which the greatest enemy of man is man himself. Yet, it is essential for him to keep this observation neutral without a moralizing or accusing finger. Each individual is responsible for his own life and environment. This tension that Georg Ettl artistically created in his sculptures, and, objects as well as in his architectural art makes his work versatile and exciting.
Born in 1940 in Nittenau,Germany, Ettl grew up in Bavaria and immigrated to Detroit, Michigan in 1959 where he worked as a toolmaker and technical draftsman. This experience in precision and utmost accuracy was to have a lasting influence in all aspects of his life.
Ettl showed and early interest in literature and philosophy and began studies in these subjects first at Wayne State University in Detroit in 1961. Deciding to return to Europe, he continued his studies in Portier, France and finally at the Sorbonne in Paris, France from 1964-1965. On his return to Detroit later that year, he chose to devote himself to fine arts resuming his studies at Wayne State University. Ettl received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1966 followed by a Master of Arts in 1967 and Master of Fine Arts in 1972. From 1966 to 1973, he taught Art and Humanities at Wayne State University and Macomb Community College in Warren, Michigan.
The confrontation of technical precision and intellectual thought dominated his work until his death. Always the precise observor, there was nothing spontanious in his art. Instead, he approached each artistic objective with thoughtful, soul searching dedication and observation followed by countless drawings and sketches. This method resulted in the best elaboration of ideas and esthetics, culminating in a certain timelessness found in his works. Furthermore, he constantly challenged kitch vs. art often coming close to the edge of the precipice.
Ettl’s first sculptures were part of the Minimalist movement. In 1969 he was invited to participate in the exhibition Other Ideas at the Detroit Institute of Arts next to well established Minimalists like Walter de Maria, Carl André and Dan Flavin. Although the influence of Minimalist art was evident in his works during the 1970's, Ettl took the idea and movement a step farther irritatingly shifting the Minimalist right angle ever so slightly or combining otherwise diametrically opposing materials such as incorporating feathers or pyrite to formica or plastic surfaces. Thus, Ettl’s work is only based on formal similarities with the Minimalists, since he didn’t share the depersonalized, purist attitude of this art claimed by his colleagues. This often resulted in heated debates, rejections and challenges.
« His irony – which can sometimes rise to sarcasm – recurs throughout his works with light motivic regularity, but, like his tendency to mislead the observer, this too is only a means to and end. » (1)
In 1968, George Ettl married the native Detroiter Dianne Gaspas. Their daughter Renatae was born in 1971.
Having had several solo exhibitions in the United States between 1971 - 1973, he returned to Germany with his wife and daughter in 1973 where they settled in Viersen located in North Rhine-Westphalia. From 1974 to 1990 he worked as an art instructor at the Erasmus of Rotterdam-Gymnasium, formerly known as the Mädchen Gymnasium.
Upon his return to Germany, Ettl undertook a series of works still marked by American Minimalism with particular attention to his own diversions. His artwork is also distinguished by the variety of materials he used, ranging from the most precious (gold-leaf) to the most trivial (concrete).
In 1979 he began a practice that could be called citational or appropriationist with a series of watercolors using images from postcards, illustrations, posters or zoology books. Later, as tribute laced with irony, he copied and slightly modified the Old Masters such as Giotto and Dürer and borrowed from the Etruscan and Byzantine art. In this manner he keept Mondrian's orthogonal organization, but chose to change the colors with his green Mondrian (1991) or simplified a still life of a Caravaggio painting.
Toward the end of the 20th century, he began a series of works gradually integrating the figure using a generic ideal profile. In 1996 he created Atelier Ettl entirely devoted to the production of simple objects at reasonable prices including wooden figurines, wallpaper, pans, tables and other objects inspired by scenes of everyday life.
Architecture also played a fundamental role in Ettl's art whether used as an image in his work or integrating his works within the architecture :
· his famous fresco entitled "The Horses of Oiron" (1992) commissioned for the Château d'Oiron in Oiron, France,
· his stained glass windows for the St. Bernard Collegiate of Romans in Romans, France(1997),
· the interior of "Heilig Geist" church in Neuss, Germany (1992-1999).
The creations listed above were entirely designed and carried out by the artist who sought to restore the lost links between artist and architect encouraging a dialogue between history and historic forms. In recognition of his artistic accomplishments in 2002, France honored Georg Ettl with the "Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres".
After a long illness, Ettl died on November 3, 2014. His urn is buried in the family plot at the parish cemetery in Viechtach, Germany (Bavarian Forest).
(1) Dr. Johannes Cladders, GEORG ETTL, ARBEITEN/WORKS 1968-1989, Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 1990.
SOLO EXHIBITIONS (selection)
GROUP EXHIBITIONS (selection)
CATALOGUES, BOOKS & PRESS (selection)