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Ich will den Stall ausmisten
$700,000 - 1,000,000
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
Skarstedt Gallery, New York
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Sigmar Polke: New works on paper, early sketchbooks and a slide show, December 15, 2000 - February 24, 2001
Executed in 2000 in the last decade of Sigmar Polke’s life, Ich will den Stall ausmisten articulates the full range of styles and methods that the German artist pioneered at varying stages of his celebrated career. The vast work brings together a variety of media on a stunning and impressive scale from the artist’s trademark raster dots first explored in his visual investigations of German Pop art in the 1960s, to his alchemical explorations into abstraction in the 1980s. It is testament to the significance of this work that Guardian art critic Laura Cumming highlighted it when debuting at Polke’s solo exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London 2000-2001. “You can still see Rauschenberg and Rosenquist…with their collaged styles and colliding images,” Cumming observed, “he [Polke] sends the ink meandering about the page with a relish that becomes infectious…Robocop, registered as a mass of newsprint dots, emerges from a haze of interference” (Laura Cumming, “A Polke in the Eye”, The Guardian, January 13, 2001, online). Playfully parrying abstraction, figuration, and modern mechanical means of illustration, Ich will den Stall ausmisten brilliantly visualizes how Polke treated art as an emporium of styles to subvert and transcend.
As a student at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in the early 1960s alongside fellow classmates Gerhard Richter and Blinky Palermo, Polke first began to experiment with the raster-dot technique of printing as a way of subverting and bringing into question the apparent validity and purpose of media imagery. Striving for an equality of surface that screened and leveled reality, both Polke and Richter challenged the truth of imagery. But as critic Bernard Marcadé explains and the present work perfectly illustrates, “While Gerhard Richter radically separated his ‘figurative’ paintings from his ‘abstract’ paintings, Polke always took great care not to favor one side over the other and to let these two pictorial paradigms interpenetrate and contaminate each other” (Bernard Marcadé, in Sigmar Polke, exh. cat., Musée de Grenoble, Grenoble, 2013, p. 17).
In this striking composition Polke juxtaposes the enlarged form of the fictional RoboCop cyborg from the eponymous 1987 sci-fi movie as reproduced in newspaper images against a sumptuous backdrop of gestural abstraction. Naming the work with a title that loosely translates to “I want to clean the Stable”, Polke, ever the contrarian and prankster, injects a level of Dada to intentionally disorient and amuse – though the title does, in fact, refer to an article of the same title that Polke would have likely ready in the German magazine Der Spiegel in 1999 around the same time as he was preparing works such as the present one for his upcoming exhibition at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in the month after. In that article Arnold Schwarzenegger is quoted using that phrase to express how he wants to clean up the political establishment, adding, “I am in reality like the ‘terminator’, I don’t give up until I’ve completed by job” (Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Ich will den Stall ausmisten”, Der Spiegel, November 29, 1999, online). Ich will den Stall ausmisten exemplifies Polke’s sardonic wit, subversive approach and continued incisive commentaries on consumer society into the last decade of his life.
At the same time, Polke here lets his decades of alchemic experimentation run wild. Indeed, while Polke’s widely multifarious oeuvre defies straightforward categorizations, it is above all his unbridled experimentation with material and media that has cemented him as one of the great pioneers – and above all great alchemists – of post-war art. While already embracing unorthodox materials into his early work in the 1960s in the form of printed fabric, it was in the 1970s that Polke truly pioneered new approaches to the application of materials in his pursuit of new pictorial possibilities. Exploiting the role of chance, gravity and the associative power of the unconscious as his compositional tools, Polke in this work characteristically allows the materials to determine the process rather than the other way around, a strategy that can be seen as a means of removing subjectivity or the authorial power of the artist from the act of painting” (Mark Godfrey, Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963-2010, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2014, p. 134). Ich will den Stall ausmisten exemplifies Polke’s trenchant position over his non-allegiance to the accepted conventions of form, technique and imagery. It speaks to the significance of works on paper such as the present one that Polke’s first exhibition in ten years in London, the exhibition the Anthony D’Offay Gallery it debuted in, was almost entirely dedicated to this medium. Speaking of Polke’s work on paper oeuvre, curator Charles Wylie noted that “they act entirely as do the paintings, and offer a concise summary of the qualities for which Polke has become internationally regarded as among the most important artists of our era: the seemingly random yet beautifully composed fusion of abstraction and figuration… swim in washes of color that Polke has masterfully controlled, creat[ing] an atmosphere on paper that is fully consistent with his more technically complex paintings with resins and other mercurial liquid materials” (Charles Wylie, Sigmar Polke: History of Everything, Paintings 1998-2003, exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, 2003, p. 16).
Ich will den Stall ausmisten
$700,000 - 1,000,000
New York Auction 16 November 2017