Artist biography

German painter. In 1963 Polke launched Capitalist Realism in response to Pop art, exhibiting the first works in this genre in Düsseldorf. Polke took as his motifs such ordinary food items as chocolate, sausages or biscuits, isolating them and apparently depriving them of their tactility in order to elevate them to the status of aesthetic signs.

Such Pop-related images, pictured in various combinations and in a number of techniques, became from this time standard elements of Polke's work. The scattered dots in more complex works form a virtually abstract pattern that makes the imagery almost invisible when viewed from near the surface. Graphic alterations help to increase this sense of unfamiliarity, blurring the boundary between the objective reproduction of reality and the subjective production of art.

A different process was used for the Fabric Pictures. In these Polke used printed fabrics, which in their triviality reveal the tastelessness of everyday life, as background patterns for gestures and motifs drawn from earlier art and especially from mainstream modernism. Irreconcilable images are brought together. He continued to appropriate images and techniques from other artists and found materials.

In other paintings Polke introduced another variation of his attack on conventional ideas about individuality and innate creativity by altering the lines of his own palm.

Polke's love of experiment, of abrupt stylistic changes and of contradiction, irony and mocking distance thus remained essential to his uncategorisable and innovative art.

Sigmar Polke: Original und Faelschung (exh. cat. by D. Stemmier, Bonn, Städt. Kstmus., 1974)
Sigmar Polke: Bilder, Tücher, Objekte: Werkauswahl, 1962–1971 (exh. cat., ed. B. H. D. Buchloch; Tübingen, Ksthalle; Düsseldorf, Ksthalle; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.; 1976)
K. Honnef: ‘Malerei als Abenteuer oder Kunst und Leben. Bemerkungen zum künstlerischen Werk Sigmar Polkes im Polke-Jahr', Kstforum Int., lxxi-ii (1984), April/May, pp. 132–207
Sigmar Polke (exh. cat. by W. Beeren, S. Polke, D. Stemmler and H. Lieberknecht, Rotterdam, Boymans–van Beuningen, 1983; Bonn, Städt. Kstmus., 1984)
Sigmar Polke (exh. cat., ed. H. Szeeman and T. Stooss; Zurich, Ksthaus, 1984)
J. Gachnang, ed.: Sigmar Polke: Zeichnungen, 1963–9 (Bern, 1987)
Sigmar Polke: Zeichnungen, Aquarelle, Skizzenbücher, 1962–88 (exh. cat., Bonn, Städt. Kstmus., 1988)
Sigmar Polke: Photographien (exh. cat., Baden-Baden, Staatl. Ksthalle, 1990)


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