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  • Provenance

    Collection of the Artist
    Sotheby’s, London, Contemporary Art Day Sale, 13 October 2012, lot 223
    Skarstedt Gallery, NY
    Private Collection

  • Exhibited

    New York, Skarstedt Gallery, Matters of Pattern, 17 January-21 February 21 2015

  • Catalogue Essay

    In 1985, Rosemarie Trockel began to use wool to create ‘knitting pictures.’ Intent on subverting wool’s traditional connotations of domestic femininity, she employed machine-made yarn, and printed the substance with computer-generated graphic patterns and motifs such as the Playboy bunny. As part of a young German art scene dominated by men such as Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke, her challenge to the 1980s avant-garde was a bold questioning of hierarchies that inheres in her materials. Working in drawing, collage, ceramics, video and more, hers is a heterogeneous practice unified only by a piercing feminist gaze. This disconcertingly diverse output tackles tensions and difficulty with ferocious intelligence. From her cooking hobs hung on the wall as Minimalist sculpture to Replace Me – an altered vision of Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde that replaces the pubis with a tarantula – Trockel offers no platitudes or palliatives.

    A recent work, the wryly named False Alarm continues Trockel’s relentless dismantling of artistic taxonomies. Black wool is stretched stark and uncompromising over a white ground. The irregular and ruptured weave quivers between the manual and the mechanical, the conscious and the unconscious: an almost sonic pulse emanates from its centre, perhaps recalling the ‘alarm’ of the title. In its taut puckering and strain, the wool’s narrative of historically sanctioned homespun craftsmanship belies an initial appearance of clean Minimalism and imposes an ominous threat of coup d’état.

    In the context of her wider oeuvre, False Alarm is perhaps all the more remarkable for its subtlety. A powerful drama plays quietly among monochrome warp and weft. The initial wool series was conceived in direct response to the representation of women in gallery and museum: ‘In the seventies there were a lot of questionable women’s exhibitions, mostly on the theme of house and home. I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a woman’s material, out of this context and to rework it in a neutral process of production. That simple experiment grew into my trademark, which I really didn’t want.’ (Rosemarie Trockel in ‘Rosemarie Trockel talks to Isabelle Graw,’ Artforum, March 2003). Trockel’s recent return to the medium, drained of colour or logo, ironically perpetuates her decentring and dispersions of meaning.

    As Roberta Smith writes in a review of Trockel’s recent retrospective, the artist is ‘plenty protean: a latter-day Surrealist; a brilliantly material-and-process-oriented former Conceptualist; a sometime photographer and pioneer appropriation artist; a subversive anti-painting painter and a dedicated, nonideological feminist.’ (Roberta Smith, ‘Connecting Kindred Spirits: “Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos,” at the New Museum,’ New York Times, 25 October 2012). This shifting, chimeric quality is perhaps the defining aspect of Trockel’s work. Resisting easy readings, she maintains a sharp distance from the comfortable and familiar, instead bordering on the anarchic in her sensibilities. The hard lines of a masculine artistic vanguard are disrupted and worn, and lazy critical stereotypes faced with sidelong obloquy. ‘If there is a secret to her work’s remarkable longevity, and a lesson for artists today, it is this: when all faith in art’s historical mission has been exhausted, the anarchist’s evasions and sideways manoeuvres offer a rare kind of strength.’ (Daniel Marcus, ‘Rosemarie Trockel at the New Museum,’ Art in America, 30 January 2013). Any curatorial wish for coherence or quietude is absorbed into the shadowy surfaces of the work: perhaps we should be raising the alarm after all.


False Alarm

black wool on white canvas
150.5 x 150.5 cm (59 1/4 x 59 1/4 in.)
Signed and numbered 'RT R Trockel RTR 2455' on the reverse.

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡ ♠

Sold for £218,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
[email protected]
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London 29 June 2015 7pm