Works from the Froehlich Collection
September 17, 2000 - February 11, 2001
Sigmar Polke (born 1941) has been a central figure in German art ever
since the appearance of his first works in the 1960s. A profound insight
into the decisive stations in Polkeís development as an artist is conveyed
by our exhibition, which pivots on works made in the 1960s and presents
some 50 works on paper, 16 paintings and three photo-works from the
By means of his imaginative, subtle exploration into the possible ways of
perceiving reality, Polke boldly and playfully re-defines what a picture is
capable of achieving. With pointed wit, he communicates to the spectator that
doubts about the image can be precisely what brings about an incessant
re-invention of painting.
Starting with the profane material of everyday culture, Polke interprets
images of reality, as opposed to reality itself, and attempts in ever-different
ways to demonstrate and overcome the illusory character of the image. For this
reason, his citation of styles and motifs plays an important role. In
the painting »Moderne Kunst« (Modern Art), for instance, he satirizes
tendencies in contemporary painting. In other pictures, the trivial visual worlds
conveyed by newspaper and magazine photographs, which he breaks down into
enlarged screening and dots, serve as the vehicles for the artistís flight of
imagination. By reducing the mass media to their elementary structures, he points
to their manipulated reality content. Similarly, the simplified, comic-like visual
language of the drawings produced in the period 1963-69 are derived from
advertising slogans and from the clichés churned out by the culture of
Industrially produced decorative fabrics represent a further source of
inspiration for Polkeís work. These intricate and brightly patterned
backgrounds compete with the actual motif and in this way themselves
become a subject. In other pictures, Polke questions the role of the artist
as author. Recurrent themes are the potato as a metaphor for creative force,
the hand as the actual producer of art, and ësuperior beingsí whose orders t
he artist is obliged to execute. Polke puts an ironic distance between his
work and the socially moulded notion of the artist-creator.
Experimental photography also plays an important role in his striving to
display constantly new image forms. In the 14-part series
»Bärenkampf« (Bear Fight), Polke works with the productivity
of coincidence in the chemical process of photographic development, a pictorial
technique that the artist later transferred to his work on canvas.
Polkeís oeuvre disowns stylistic aspiration of any kind. He detaches material
and motifs from the original context, transports them into the realms of the
grotesque, and with humour refuses to accept the criteria of traditional art.
A catalogue is forthcoming.