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Artists Sigmar Polke
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Sigmar Polke

German Painter, Sculptor, Photographer, Filmmaker, Performance and Conceptual Artist

Movement: Pop Art

Born: February 13, 1941 - Silesia, Poland

Died: June 10, 2010 - Cologne, Germany

Sigmar Polke Timeline

Quotes

"When I came to the West, I saw many, many things for the first time. But I also saw the prosperity of the West critically. It wasn't really Heaven."
Sigmar Polke
"There has to be an element of risk-taking for me in my work."
Sigmar Polke
"A negative is never finished."
Sigmar Polke
"Yes, my works... are enshrined in museums, but I don't care if the pieces fall apart in 20 years."
Sigmar Polke
"People expect things from art that are horrible for us who make it! They put the things we make in these restrictive places called 'museums,' then don't want to hear another word from us."
Sigmar Polke
"Mostly, drawings are things I make for myself - I do them in sketchbooks. They are mental experiments - private inner thoughts when I'm not sure what will come out."
Sigmar Polke

"The conventional definition of reality, and the idea of 'normal life', mean nothing."

Sigmar Polke Signature

Synopsis

Multi-media artist, Sigmar Polke, had the capacity to be at once irreverent, playful, and acerbic. From painting to photography and film to installations and prints, Polke's work, which often incorporated non-traditional materials and techniques, was above all a critique of art itself. Sometimes veiled and sometimes confrontational, the messages conveyed in his work raise serious questions about aesthetic, political, and social conventions. For Polke, the production of art was consistently a dialogue between himself and the viewer, which presented virtually limitless interpretive possibilities. Along with a group of fellow artists that included Gerhard Richter, he introduced the term, Capitalist Realism, which refers loosely to commodity-based art. Further, and specifically in the case of Polke's work, Capitalist Realism constitutes not only a critique of Pop art and the commodification of art and capitalism overall but also of the idealistic and overtly nationalistic Soviet Social Realism that Polke was particularly exposed (and opposed) to.

Key Ideas

The cynically witty Polke helped launch the Capitalist Realism style as a response to American and British Pop art. Rather than simply commenting on mass production and conspicuous consumption Polke went a step further. With works such as Chocolate Painting, he eliminated signifiers like labels with brand names in order to poke fun at notions of individuality and uniqueness. Indeed, despite the biting commentary of Pop art and its critique of capitalist consumer homogeneity, works like Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup cans, with their labels and their sameness, still sold for large sums. The objects in Polke's Pop works are stripped of such identifiers, which emphasizes how banal they actually are.
At the fore of Polke's experiments was the impulse to challenge virtually every convention of art, often in surprising and ingenious ways. His iconoclastic tendencies extended not merely to content but to the materials of the works themselves, which were often adamantly non-traditional. From uranium and meteorite dust, brightly printed fabric and soot, to bubble wrap and potatoes, Polke's artistic odyssey took him and his work to the potential limits of creation.
The subject of appropriation was a major theme in the work of Polke who challenged notions of authorship, authenticity, and objectivity. Drawing on images from modernist works that had become mainstream such as Jackson Pollock's drip paintings or Roy Lichtenstein's Ben-day dots -- Polke, not unlike Marcel Duchamp, demanded to know what constituted originality in a world where copies have become prized and designer homogeneity had become a marker of status.

Biography

Sigmar Polke Photo

Childhood

Sigmar Polke was born in Oels, a small town in Lower Silesia, Poland. He was one of eight children and though his father was an architect, according to Polke, the family had very little money. Born in the middle of World War II, he remembers the "trauma" of the war, which "dominated [his] childhood." Polke recalled his engagement with art in this early years, "I began drawing as a very young child and had a grandfather who experimented with photography, so those things constituted my first exposure to art."

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Sigmar Polke Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Sigmar Polke
Interactive chart with Sigmar Polke's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Francis PicabiaFrancis Picabia
Joseph BeuysJoseph Beuys
Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Roy LichtensteinRoy Lichtenstein

Personal Contacts

Gerhard RichterGerhard Richter
Lueg KonradLueg Konrad

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art

Influences on Artist
Sigmar Polke
Sigmar Polke
Years Worked: 1960s - 2000s
Influenced by Artist

Artists

David SalleDavid Salle
Julian SchnabelJulian Schnabel
Richard PrinceRichard Prince

Personal Contacts

James Lee ByarsJames Lee Byars
Gerhard RichterGerhard Richter

Movements

PostmodernismPostmodernism

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Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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