Although he has been dead a few years, the enigmatic and masterfully talented Sigmar Polke (1941- 2010) is not soon to be forgotten. Largely evasive of being pin-pointed into any one area of craft, Polke was an exceptional postwar generation artist who crossed all genres and utilized his excessive wit and intelligence to comment on the world he lived in. The largest showing of his work to date is being presented at various museums in the world. Having just closed at the MoMA in New York, it will open up for exhibition at the Tate Modern in October 2014 before going to the Museum Ludwig in Germany in 2015.
The exhibition write-up from the MoMA show summarizes his legacy:
“Sigmar Polke (German, 1941–2010) was one of the most voraciously experimental artists of the twentieth century. This retrospective is the first to encompass the unusually broad range of mediums he worked with during his five-decade career, including painting, photography, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, television, performance, and stained glass, as well as his constant, highly innovative blurring of the boundaries between these mediums. Masquerading as many different artists—making cunning figurative paintings at one moment and abstract photographs the next—he always eluded easy categorization.
Beneath Polke’s irreverent wit, promiscuous intelligence, and chance operations lay a deep skepticism of all authority—artistic, familial, religious, and governmental. It would be impossible to understand this attitude, and the creativity that grew out of it, without considering Polke’s biography and its setting in twentieth-century European history: in 1945, near the end of World War II, his family fled Silesia (in present-day Poland) for what would soon be Soviet-occupied East Germany, and then escaped again, this time to West Germany, in 1953. Polke grew up at a time when many Germans deflected blame for the atrocities of the Nazi period with the alibi “I didn’t see anything.”
Polke scrutinized the malleability of vision. Highly attuned to the differences between appearance and reality, he was wary of the notion that there might be one universal truth. His relentlessly inventive works, ranging in size from the intimacy of a notebook to monumental paintings, collapse conventional distinctions—between high culture and low, figuration and abstraction, the heroic and the banal—allowing flux, rather than stability, to prevail.”
Don’t forget to go to London and see it in person! It’s only a plane away!