Monday, June 06, 2011

Martin Kippenberger: I Had a Vision



[“Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Heavy Burschi)” (1989-1990). Color photo graph. “Heavy Burschi” (1991). Chipboard container; silkscreen, metal, plexiglass, oil, cast resin on canvas. [“Ohne Titel (aus der Serie Heavy Burschi)” (1989-1990). Color photo graph. “Untitled” (1991). Wood, leather, metal, motor & seat, carousel & ejection seat. “Untitled (Wall paper)” (1991). Four-color offset print. “Cineastenabgang” (1990). Wood, felt, plexiglass, neon tube (set of 3).]

“I Had a Vision”—an exhibition of sculptural work by Martin Kippenberger (1953—1997) will be up at Luhring Augustine through June 18, 2011. Offering a partial reconstruction of two major shows from the summer and fall of 1991 that shared much of the same content, the included pieces evince a self-mocking disposition through transmogrification of domestic décor (lamps, mirrors, wallpaper). Those previous shows were “New Work (Put Your Eye in Your Mouth)” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and “Martin Kippenberger: Tiefes Kehlchen (Deep Throat).” The latter occupied an unused tunnel between two subway stations in Vienna and had been included in that city’s public art series “Topographie.” Considered Warhol's German heir, Kippenberger’s irreverence toward art world conventions comes through here: His taste for kitsch and an inclusion of electric vehicles denote this exhibition as a kind of “theme park.”

More than appropriate with relation to the works in this installation, the title “I Had a Vision” was also used for the San Francisco show’s catalogue. “Broken Kilometer” (1990), a series of boxes identical in length—but with ever shorter resin inserts—makes more concrete the optical perceptions of size and distance. The “Kippenblinky” lamp (1991) and “Cineastenabgang (Cineastes’ Egress)” (1990) supply foreground illumination: Their lighted steps function as a guide. “Mirror for Hang Over Bud” (1990) presents a mirror made out of aluminum foil rather than glass and eliminates viewer possibilities to see anything but hazy reflections. “Heavy Burschi (Heavy Lad)” (1990) comprises a dumpster full of paintings that Kippenberger asked an assistant to put together based thematically on other paintings of his, which were then destroyed by the artist. Exhibited alongside photographs of the paintings in their original state, it embodies paradoxes of presentation and representation—work that the artist shows to the public only through the process of its own demolition, abetted by the photographic likenesses of the pictures.

Known for his prolific output across myriad media (painting, drawing, records, books, posters, architecture, performance), Kippenberger also relocated frequently. He once referred to himself as “a traveling salesman” dealing in ideas: His itinerancy is felt in “Untitled (Carousel with ejection seat)” (1991). This looped train track was placed in the center of the San Francisco show and enabled visitors sitting in the motorized van seat to view the exhibition’s contents—arranged in a circle—in perpetual motion. This echoed Kippenberger’s own continual transit and encouraged viewers to synthesize works as a panoramic whole. In Vienna, an electromobile carried a resin-cast figure of Kippenberger wearing a suit jacket, white shirt, tie, dark shoes, and jeans, and traveling one-way down a track. This underlined Kippenberger’s conception of the show as an “art ghost train” with himself as the driver.

Kippenberger’s forerunner (and iconic) shows alluded to a correlation between the temporary nature of exhibitions and his transitory domiciles. Many of the objects had appeared in prior exhibitions and would reappear, recontextualized, in subsequent ones. It was almost as if he was moving house. It becomes clear that as with the rest of his oeuvre, Kippenberger’s personae and psyche permeated his ever-evolving sculptural work. His exhibitions were just as much an extension of himself as his living quarters.

Preoccupied with artistic currents of the 1980s, Kippenberger’s net output embodies creative sensibilities of that period. One who consistently appropriated, challenged, absorbed, transferred, and transformed what he saw around him, Kippenberger drew upon any number of “disciplines”—art, popular culture, architecture, music, history, politics, and the anecdotal into his ever-reinvented and rambunctious oeuvre—a veritable late-Modernist clearinghouse. Legend was the response when—to test his thesis that painting was an overrated, if useful, form—Kippenberger bought a small gray 1972 monochrome painting by Gerhard Richter, fitted it with metal legs, turned it into a coffee table, and transformed it into a “Kippenberger sculpture.” Nothing less than nucleus of a generation of German enfants terrible such as Albert Oehlen, Markus Oehlen, Werner Büttner, Georg Herold, Dieter Göls, and Günther Förg, Kippenberger collected and commissioned work by many of his peers. Some of his exhibition posters were designed by such art world figures as Jeff Koons, Christopher Wool, Rosemarie Trockel, and Mike Kelley.

The work of Kippenberger—who died in 1997 at the age of 44—has been the focus of major retrospectives at the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), MoMA, the Tate Modern (London), K21 (Düsseldorf), and Museo Picasso Malaga.

Martin Kippenberger: "I Had A Vision"
Through Jun 18, 2011
531 West 24th Street, NYC 10011

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