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Sigmar Polke
Banale (Banal)
Offset lithograph on paper
Edition of 75
27.5 x 19.625 inches
T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2002

Walker Art Center

Steidl, Göttingen

Excerpt from Walker Art Center:

Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke has constantly defied aesthetic boundaries in his work, extending the visual vocabularies of painting, photography, and printmaking through a mercurial working process. His investigations into the effects that can be achieved by embracing a vast range of materials, pictorial sources, and art practices have been highly influential to successive generations of artists. Within his wealth of material can also be found mystery—he is frequently called enigmatic, elliptical, obscure. Over the past forty years, he has created a body of work that continues to provoke and entrance, marking a significant bridge between the twentieth century and the twenty-first.

Polke was born in 1941 in Oels, Silesia (the eastern part of Germany at the time), now Olesnica, Poland. His father was trained as an architect and descended from ironworkers who had decorated Baroque churches. When Polke was twelve, his family immigrated to West Germany. At eighteen, he apprenticed with a glass painter, learning a centuries-old art form that was experiencing a revival due to the need for restoration after the war. From 1961 to 1967, he was enrolled at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, an environment rife with ideas.1 The highly influential artist Joseph Beuys taught there from 1961 to 1972, and its students in the 1960s were eager to bring to their work a new sense of the social and democratic. Many felt the reverberations of American Pop Art, with its appropriation of commercial images, and the more international movement of Fluxus, which drew from performative impulses and pedestrian, often found materials. It was during this period that Polke, together with fellow students Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg,2 cofounded a movement that was coined “Capitalist Realism” in 1963.3 The term was a rhetorical play on Socialist Realism, then the official style of East Germany. Polke’s paintings of the period embraced banal subject matter and verbal and pictorial clichés of advertising. His “dot paintings,” or Rasterbilder, produced between 1963 and 1969, were hand-painted renditions of mechanically generated images (mainly found photographs), and were both a parody of and commentary on the slickness of mechanical reproduction appearing in American Pop.

Continued... [Walker Art Center]


Sigmar Polke, German, (1941–2010)
b. February 13, 1941, Olesnica, Poland
d. 2010

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