Series "Vagrant", 1986
Fears for the future and an Africa utopia are themes that appear close together in the work of Ruth Baumgarte. The artist began to travel the African continent on a regular basis in the 1980s and to rediscover oil painting. At the same time, she was becoming sharply aware of societal and socio-political issues in Germany. Concerned by encounters with homeless people and a man who had only a small blanket to protect him in the icy cold, she started work on the series Nichtsesshaft (Vagrant), which depicts men in difficult situations in society.
A man with a deeply lined face looks straight into our eyes from the ochre page. His head appears almost to disappear into his large coat. He is holding a cup in his bony hands and an open paper bag of sandwiches lies in front of him. Baumgarte indicates the man's precarious situation with just a few artistic devices: his bent arms are squeezed into the frame and his body is at an angle. For this series, Baumgarte largely used handmade paper, which gives the entire background a pale mesh look – a subtle emphasis on the man's hopeless situation. Other works in the series.