Roger Melis (1940-2009)
Auf dem Rummel, Berlin (1969)
April 27 – June 22, 2019
Opening: April 26, 2019 | 7-9pm
Few photographers have examined the East Germans and their world as long, as intensively and in so many facets as Roger Melis (1940-2009). For three decades, the co-founder and „master of East German photorealism“ (DIE ZEIT) travelled the GDR from Berlin, a country he often found „still“ and frozen under the rule of the SED. As a sober observer and chronicler, Melis documented the lives of people in the cities and the countryside in dense, often symbolic photographs. His cautious and penetrating portraits and reportages create a complex picture of the East Germans in the years between the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall.
Parallel to the retrospective „The East Germans“ curated by Mathias Bertram, which takes place from 12 April to 28 July 2019 at the Reinbeckhallen Foundation in Berlin Oberschöneweide, Loock shows the series „Auf dem Rummel, Berlin“ (1969), consisting of 12 vintages, in the gallery‘s showroom. Roger Melis possibly produced the photo reportage as part of his application for membership of the Verband Bildender Künstler (Association of Visual Artists), in which he was accepted as a candidate in 1968 and as a member in 1971. In any case, it was created without a commission and remained unpublished at the time.
In the relatively strictly regulated public of the former GDR, folk festivals and fairgrounds offered opportunities for an informal get-together without a political motiviation, which was also popular with young people. Melis observed a group of young people at the fairground in Michelangelostraße in the Berlin district of Prenzlauer Berg. Confident, provocative and in terms of clothing and habitus oriented towards Western youth culture, they certainly did not correspond to the ideals of the party and its youth movement, the Free German Youth (FDJ).
On the occasion of the exhibition at Reinbeckhallen, Lehmstedt Verlag has published the bilingual accompanying book „Die Ostdeutschen | The East Germans“ with numerous previously unknown photographs from the photographr’s estate. The volume expands the portrait of the „East Germans“ which Roger Melis published in 2007: „In einem stillen Land | In a Silent Country“, which is now also available in a new bilingual edition.
His photographs have been shown in numerous solo and group shows, including Literaturmuseum der Moderne, Marbach am Neckar (2018/19); Side Gallery, Newcastle (2018); Kunsthalle Rostock (2016/17); C/O Berlin (2010, 2016/17); Berlinische Galerie (2012/13); Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, Aachen (2009); Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin (2009); Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2009); Forum für Fotografie, Köln (2005); Museum Bad Arolsen (2003); Kunstforum der Grundkreditbank, Berlin (2002); Willy-Brandt-Haus, Berlin (1999, 2000, 2005, 2007); Musée de l‘ Elysée, Lausanne (1990); Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (1990).
Works by Roger Melis are in the following private and public collections: Akademie der Künste, Berlin; Berlinische Galerie; Brandenburgisches Landesmuseum für moderne Kunst, Cottbus; Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach; Musée de l‘Elyseé, Lausanne; Haus der Geschichte, Bonn; Kupferstich-Kabinett, Dresden; Sammlung Reinbeckhallen, Berlin; Sammlung Gabriele König, Aachen; and others.
Text: Mathias Bertram