Polke’s work has consistently investigated the terrain of collective visual culture. His paintings ask questions about the meaning of being an artist in a world bombarded with images, and explore the relationship between different kinds of imagery. Since the early 1960s he has juxtaposed images from very different sources, such as fabric patterns, magazine advertising, cartoons and the icons of art history. These works challenge the traditional hierarchy of imagery, and confront the fact that in today’s world no image is sacred: everything is subject to instant reproduction and dissemination all over the world.
This exhibition brings together works inspired by diverse source material (newspapers, satellite photography, 19th century illustrations, among others), but also shows the journey of a single image through different permutations. The Afghan horsemen photographed by satellite in The Hunt for the Taliban and Al Qaeda (2002/3) reappear in History of Everything II (2002), and again in I Live in My Own World but it’s OK, They Know Me Here (2002), where they have been magnified to the point of disintegration. This repeated image reflects the rapid circulation of imagery within the mass media and shows how easily images can be manipulated, thereby drastically changing their meaning and significance.