Indepth Arts News: |
"Sigmar Polka: Alhemist"
2001-03-30 until 2001-07-29
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Artistic quality cannot be measured, but you can measure the demand for an
artist. At least according to the international magazine Capital, which once a
year publishes its art compass – a list of the 100 artists most in demand –
based on participation in group and solo exhibitions at selected, prestigious
museums all over the world. In 2000, the German painter Sigmar Polke came
in as number one, well ahead of such colleagues as Gerhard Richter and
However, Louisiana does not plan its exhibitions according to Capitals art
compass. The museum has its own instruments of navigation, but on these,
too, the needles have been pointing to Sigmar Polke for several years. It has
now finally been possible – in collaboration with the Astrup Fearnley Museum
of Modern Art in Oslo – to organize an exhibition that offers a retrospective
view of Polke’s artistic output, focuses on some of his major works, and
includes recent works by the artist. Louisiana has considered it important to
give the exhibition this kind of broad scope, since it is the first real introduction
to Polkes extensive oeuvre in Denmark.
Sigmar Polke was born in Silesia in 1941 and attended the Art Academy in
Düsseldorf during the first half of the 1960s. At the start of his career he
worked together with Gerhard Richter, among others, but later went his own
way. Today Richter and Polke are unquestionably the two contemporary
German artists who have attracted the most attention internationally and
exerted the greatest influence on younger generations of artists.
Polkes work is explosive. It embraces numerous styles, often brought together
in a single work, which may subtly move from expressive, wild painting to
ironic, historical painting. It can be at once narrative, open, hermetic and
mysterious. Polke is not easily categorised. This does not mean that his
pictures cannot be interpreted. On the contrary, there is almost a surplus of
meaning in his work. It is a house with many entrances: it confronts the
lightness of Pop art with the seriousness of Minimalism, places the patterns
and ornaments found on the imaginative wallpaper of children’s rooms in
juxtaposition to elements from the grand artistic tradition, from Goya and
Goethe. Viewed as a totality, the work becomes a magical/realistic account of
our extremely visual culture and the infinite layers of meaning that meet the
eye, if it really goes on discovery.
Polkes attitude to materials, to the physical elements of painting, is unique.
He is a sort of modern alchemist who works with exotic chemicals, allowing
them to live a life of their own on the paintings surface. Often he has to paint
out of doors, because the substances he pours over his gigantic canvases
are too toxic to work with indoors. The results are strange pictures of an
almost natural beauty, which combine the miniature world of bacteria, as seen
under a microscope, with what most of all looks like an adventurous journey to
the centre of the earth. This is especially true of one of the absolute
masterpieces of the exhibition: Apparizione – a triptych measuring
9 x 4 meters!
Those who talk about the death of painting always forget Sigmar Polke. In
his work, the art of painting has survived, full of vigour, ambiguous, rich in
perspective, humorous, mythological and fantasising - in short: apparently
inexhaustible. Polke continues to surprise us. He can make even the needle
of the compass dizzy.
The exhibition comprises about 50 works, executed between 1963 and 1999,
and has been organized in consultation with the artist himself. An exhibition
catalogue will be published in both a Danish and an English version. The
Danish version will be the spring volume of Louisiana Revy and will include
an article by Louisiana’s director, Poul Erik Tøjner.