Capitalist Realism

Polkes’ work of the early 1960s for the most part is less involved with appropriating or referring to the pictorial style of advertising than in depicting a consumer society’s - and his own - ­objects of desire. (In this connection it is worth pointing out that the candies and cakes, butter and sausages that Polke painted and drew at this time had in fact been highly prized and were not easily available in the Germany of the 1950s and early 1960s.)

What was new, however, was that Polke reproduced these consumer items exactly as they might appear in the contemporary consciousness, as images taken from the pictorial shorthand of the illustrated press and not as they would actually appear in the real world. The images are flat and unseductive, and they have none of the flash either of advertising or of the American pop artists. Instead, they are straightforward renditions of the mental-visual images that run constantly through our heads.