Rosemarie Trockel - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Rosemarie Trockel, 'Assisted Lines', Lot 38

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Provenance

    Sprüth Magers, Los Angeles
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    A tactile work consisting of countless black yarn lines stretched vertically atop an immaculate white canvas, Assisted Lines, 2014, belongs to Rosemarie Trockel’s groundbreaking series of machine-knit wool works, which the artist commenced in the 1980s upon realising that knitting and weaving were still erroneously being dubbed inherently female activities. With her ‘distinctive, superficially feminine implied procedure’, Trockel took a stance against the male-dominated art scene, namely the contemporaneous Neue Wilde movement flourishing in Germany, and infused such seminal patterns as the Minimalist grid with renewed vigour and feminist conviction (Kasper König, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, exh. cat., Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2006, p. 10). Precisely woven by the threads of a machine, Assisted Lines appears so fine from afar that it resembles a painting or a drawing. It is only on close inspection that the viewer is able to discern the intricately laced lines, and thus grasp the crux of Trockel’s conceptual intent.

    Ceaselessly exploring the connections between female identity and craftsmanship, Trockel began stretching her wool compositions on canvas in 1985. Though at first these embroidered works’ surfaces were patterned with computer-made geometrical motifs or famous logos, her more recent compositions combine both horizontal and vertical stripes of colour, resembling the formal compositions of 20th century abstract painting. Trockel’s recent return to the medium, drained of colour or recognisable symbols, ironically perpetuates her decentering and dispersions of meaning, turning her works into mature and fully-abstracted iterations of her initial gesture. As Maria de Corral has remarked, Trockel convincingly aligns her works with ‘a technique, a vocation typically feminine, as if she wanted to keep her art work close to her subjectivity, a subjectivity capable of using all instruments and all possible languages’ (Maria de Corral, Rosemarie Trockel, exh. cat., Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 1991, p. 63). Within its subtle design, Trockel’s stark monochromatic lines employ a quasi-mathematical language of added layers that together conjure an eerily delectable image of weft and warp.

    Born and raised in West Germany, Trockel emerged in the early 1980s as a key figure of the German art scene, in a generation that followed the hallowed footsteps of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke and Georg Baselitz. Her particular approach to art was informed by both her academic background and serendipitous encounters – namely with the artists Jenny Holzer and Cindy Sherman enabled by her frequent travels to America. Having initially studied anthropology, sociology, theology and mathematics to become a professor, it wasn’t until 1974 that Trockel began studying art at the Fachhochschule für Kunst und Design in Cologne. Conceiving art that eluded categorisation whilst existing within the lineage of her German predecessors, she became the first European woman artist to receive exposure in the United States. By the late 1980s, Trockel’s works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and in 1999, she was the first woman to participate in the German pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

    Reflecting this scintillating trajectory, Trockel gravitated towards, and established herself within a unique, cross-disciplinary genre that questioned the assumed hierarchy of materials. She, furthermore, employed contemporary, mechanised tools, distinguishing her practice from traditional craft. To achieve her wool works, she would make blueprints for her designs and subsequently have them produced by a technician using computerised machinery. As a result, Trockel’s work is both prodigiously ambivalent and lyrically chimeric, making one feel wound up ‘deeper and deeper in a system of allusions and references in which work concepts, processes, formal solutions, and especially connections between art and society are turned over and over in critical or ironic manner’ (Uwe M. Schneede, Rosemarie Trockel: Werkgruppen 1986-1998, exh. cat., Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, 1998, n.p.).

    Resisting easy categorisation, Trockel maintains a sharp distance from the comfortable and familiar, instead bordering on the anarchic. 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 manoeuvers offer a rare kind of strength’ (Daniel Marcus, ‘Rosemarie Trockel at the New Museum', Art in America, 30 January 2013). Trockel’s artistic output, heavily influenced by her reputation as an enfant terrible, played a decisive role in the rapidly evolving German contemporary art scene. There is a gravitational pull within her work that is informed by the avant-garde that sustained her generation, elegantly encapsulated by the conceptual dynamism of the present work.


Assisted Lines

signed 'R Trockel' on the reverse
yarn on canvas
150.5 x 130.7 cm (59 1/4 x 51 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2014.

£200,000 - 300,000 ‡♠

Sold for £225,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099


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Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019