Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke, “Kandinsdingsda”, 1976, Gouache, Acrylic and Collage on Paper Mounted on Canvas, Artist’s Estate

Sigmar Polke was born in Oels, an east German region, in 1941. His family soon fled to west Germany in 1953, settling in Dusseldorf where Polke studied at the Dusseldorf Art Academy between the years 1961 and 1967. While still in school, Polke, along with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer, founded the Captialist Realism movement.

The Capitalist Realism movement incorporated aspects of American Pop Art’s interest in consumer and popular imagery with abstraction and an emphasis on a progressive use of mediums. The movement also instilled into their works satirical commentary about consumerism, the political climate in Germany at the time: the movement’s name was a play on the Russian art movement of Socialist Realism.

Polke’s artistic practice embraced and incorporated mistakes such as drips, tears, and copy printing errors into his paintings. His experimentation with photography in the 1970s intentionally disregarded the standard rules: dropping the wrong chemicals onto the paper, turning on the light during development, brushing the developer on selectively, using exhausted fixer. Polke would then use these ‘mistakes’ to explore his interest in abstract pictorial space.

Polke’s irreverence for classical artistic practices made for an innovative and stylistically uncategorizable body of work that used photography and printed materials as source material, silkscreened layers on top of painterly expanses, chemical substances and other non-art materials within a collage-like aesthetic.

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