Sigmar Polke

German , 1941 - 2010

Sigmar Polke was born in 1941 in Silesia. After fleeing East Germany in 1945, the Polke family settled in Dusseldorf in 1953. Over the next ten years in Dusseldorf, Polke founded “Kapitalistischen Realismus” (Capitalist Realism), with Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer Lueg. A reaction to the Pop Art movement, Polke's capitalist realist works such as Biscuits II set off everyday items and aestheticized them by playing at their tangibility. Polke who lived in Cologne, Germany until his death in 2010, was the recipient of many awards. Most prestigiously, the artist won "the Golden Lion” at the XLII Venice Biennale.

Especially interested in issues of artistic evaluation, Polke blended different media--giving the sensation of a layered image--to encourage the viewer to challenge the ways one addresses the image. This involved using printed fabric instead of canvas in the late 1960s and most significantly, using painting and photography beginning in the 1970s. Using photographs from trips abroad to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Polke addressed issues of reproduction and authorship in manipulated photographic and painted works. Polke's concerns with authorship and the readdress of the image translated into his works of gestural abstraction in the 1980s. Polke created these works by conducting "experiments" mixing traditional media with solvents, toxins, and resins on the canvas, ultimately furthering the concept of the layered image.

Sigmar Polke was also a prolific printmaker. By the time of his death in 2010, Polke had created over 150 editions. Beginning with offset printing in 1967, Polke's early prints also focused on the relationship between reality and representation. He later additionally incorporated the principles from his work in manipulated photography beginning in the 1970s. His works on paper have been the subject of many exhibitions, most notably at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
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