Art Talkers Talk by LeeAnne Bray

Exhibition at Museum Ludwig “Alibis Sigmar Polke” on May 7th, 2015

As a neophyte of contemporary art, I’m glad to have AIWCC’s in-house art expert, Karla Schlaepfer, as our guide through this unique exhibit of one of Germany’s most reclusive and rebellious artists of the past few decades. Intrigued by remarks in AIWCCs Bulletin and by the billboard posters around town of Polke’s polk-a-dot art, I knew we would delve into more than what the eye sees.

The extensive works of Sigmar Polke was a walk through the bizarre, the mundane, the science experiments of a man who some would say had escaped from rehab. Others might call him a creative genius to use meteorite dust and Native Indian arrowheads in his large-scale paintings.
Karla showed us a man who had a lot of curiosity, creativity and much to say about his generation. He had an insatiable talent for working outside the box.

As we wandered the museum and through Polke’s LSD mind trips, Karla peeled back the layers of paint and toxic chemicals that Polke concocted and used with numerous types of media; film, photo copier, textiles. Amazing to view was his living art! The three dark purple large scale paintings with flecks of gold swirling in, out and around the canvas seemed to breathe. The garden house sized metal framed structure decorated with real potatoes from Münster gave us all a good laugh. Needing to be replaced regularly as they decayed; this was possibly Polke’s biggest and best immortal joke.

All in all we were thankful for insights into Sigmar Polke’s background and why his political views were often satirical and influenced his subjects. Polke was commenting on Germany’s economic miracle in his paintings like in the “The Sausage Eater” or in his version of German Pop Art. He had an interesting way of combining materials. For example he used fabrics that could have been childrens pyjamas or curtains with his ironical opinions of social issues. In the end this provokes our own questions of what is art?

Sigmar Polke was a complex man who lived over 30 years in Cologne but shunned the public and never wanted his works to be displayed here. Even though his heirs donated a large number of the 250 works to this exhibition, it was said that he’d probably be turning in his grave to know how he is now regarded as museum-worthy.

LeeAnne Bray