Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sigmar Polke: Alibis

Seeing Rays, Polke 2007

The much anticipated Sigmar Polke exhibition is currently at MoMA in NYC. This is an extensive retrospective of the artist's work and the largest single artist exhibition mounted at MoMA. This will probably be the most discussed topic this spring. (at least until the spring art fairs return our attention to money and art) I'll leave the heavy critical lifting to the critics and will add links to various sources as they are written.

Shirts, Polke,1964

I do have several observations to share. Polke doesn't have a signature style that allows one to walk into a room and instantly know who the artist is; indeed one could wander through this exhibit and be fooled into thinking it is a group exhibition. Polke (1941-2010) worked in a variety of mediums; painting, photography, film, sculpture, performance, collage, print and often combining these to form hybrids.
Potato House, Polke 1967

I found that particularly refreshing and actually affirming in my approach to art making. In fact after seeing the creative explosion of ideas and experimentation that Polke explored I realize the half dozen or so phases I've gone through seem like minor diversions in comparison. I think we'll recognize in the aftermath of this exhibit that many contemporary artists have built careers mining single facets that Polke has touched on.

My second observation concerns how liberating the absence of wall tags felt. Each room has an overall description that touches on the period it the work references otherwise we are left to our own eyes to decide what it is we're seeing. (there is a handout available with the title dates and material) The titile of the exhibition, Alibis in part refers to the deflection of responsibility which shaped German behavior during the Nazi period during Polke's childhood as well as an absorbing interest in deflating absolutes as an artist.
Polke is at once a master of illusion, slight of hand and a dedicated alchemist recombining artistic elements not for gold but for the thrill alone.

                                               Seeing Things as They Are, Polke 1991

Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010 opens to the public on April 19th and runs through August 3rd at MoMA in NYC.

MoMA -Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010
James Kalm videos - Part 1 - Part 2
Jerry Saltz from New York Magazine - Saltz on MoMA’s Frustratingly Near-Great Sigmar Polke Retrospective
Walter Robinson from Artspace - Sigmar Polke, Bad Ass of German Pop, Rocks MoMA Senseless
Holland Cotter from NY Times - Found Everything, Tried Everything, All His Own Way