Clothes make the canvas."Cloth on cloth"--this could be the slogan presiding over the intrusion on this white background of a striped shirt and a striped pair of pants In mathematics, a pair of pants is a simple two-dimensional surface resembling a pair of pants. In hyperbolic geometry, pairs of pants are sewn together, leg to leg, or leg to waist, to create Riemann surfaces of arbitrary genus. . There is another shirt, this one flowered, violating the work's linear and graphic tone--a quality evidenced in three sketched figures, dressed a la Louis XIII Louis XIII, king of France
Louis XIII, 1601–43, king of France (1610–43). He succeeded his father, Henry IV, under the regency of his mother, Marie de' Medici. He married Anne of Austria in 1615. , each of them gathering toward his eyes a fistful fist·ful
n. pl. fist·fuls
The amount that a fist can hold.
Noun 1. fistful - the quantity that can be held in the hand
containerful - the quantity that a container will hold of tight-stretched threads. Students of the history of perspective will recognize these three gentlemen, each with his "visual pyramid": they appear in an engraving Abraham Bosse made for the first volume of his Maniere universelle pour pratiquer la perspective (Universal method for the practice of perspective, 1648). Discrete linear configurations in the upper-left- and lower-right-hand corners, recalling, among other things, certain works by Francois Morellet and by Frank Stella, complete the composition. The picture in question is entitled Vermessen der Kleider (Measurement of clothes, 1994), and it is among the 20 or so works that Sigmar Polke painted specifically for his show at the Musee d'art contemporain de Nimes.
At the start of the '80s, Polke gave his work an unprecedented push, asserting himself definitively as the contemporary painter with the widest range. The sometimes dry derision and often nihilistic ni·hil·ism
a. An extreme form of skepticism that denies all existence.
b. A doctrine holding that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.
2. gratings of his first two decades gave way to a restless splendor, fed by a diversity of material and techniques and a wealth of formats. Not that his sense of humor Noun 1. sense of humor - the trait of appreciating (and being able to express) the humorous; "she didn't appreciate my humor"; "you can't survive in the army without a sense of humor"
sense of humour, humor, humour , or of violence, disappeared; they expressed themselves, though, alongside a new, more striking pictorial experimentalism and mastery. To cite a name not usually associated with Polke's (and the two artists are indeed very different), this transition to a new stage, one encompassing the previous achievements, reminds me of Paul Klee's advances as of 1911-12. In both cases we find a multiplicity of interests and procedures, but also a delicate dose of irony and a need to negotiate a fruitful relationship to earlier art, from which both artists had previously been alienated. In November 1901 the younger Klee, using words in some way indicative of the dilemma that both he and Polke overcame, had written in his diary,
I am at the point of being in reasonable control of the great culture of antiquity and the Renaissance from now on; but I can't conceive of an artistic rapport with our own era. And the desire to produce something in a way that isn't contemporary seems suspect to me. Great disarray. That is why I am only whole as satire. Will I maybe dissolve myself completely in it? Provisionally it forms my only article of faith. Perhaps I will never be positive? In any case I will know how to defend myself like a wild animal.
By the '80s a dialogue with art history became a sort of second nature with Polke, and his new paintings provide many examples of this protean pro·te·an
Readily taking on varied shapes, forms, or meanings.
changing form or assuming different shapes. conversation. Der Ritter rit·ter
n. pl. ritter
[German, from Middle High German riter, from Middle Dutch ridder, from r II (The knight II) revives and enlarges a wood-block print--surely German, and from around 1500--that shows a seated knight drying his shoe in front of the fire. As is often the case in these works, the stretcher is visible behind and through the canvas, its bars dividing the image, though without really disrupting its legibility--even emphasizing, in fact, the focal position of the shoe. A similar effect appears in Die Drei Lugen der Malerei (The three lies of painting, 1994; for Polke, the illusion of transparency The illusion of transparency is a tendency for people to overestimate the degree to which their personal mental state is known by others.
Another manifestation of the illusion of transparency (aka the observer’s illusion of transparency) is a tendency for people to is probably one of painting's lies). Presented as a sort of rebus on the left of this enigmatically lit work is a large vertical band of printed cloth. The motifs--multicolored hands, some with three bent fingers--simultaneously evoke the cave paintings of Lascaux and Jackson Pollock (Number 1, 1948). This still leaves much to be said and imagined about the painting in question, but gives an initial sense of the chronological range these works comprehend.
Polke--today 53, and at work for over 30 years--has been using cloth of all kinds for a long time, and one of his paintings in Nimes he made entirely without paint: Handtucher (Hand towels, 1994), as its title indicates, is made of small towels sewn together over the canvas' surface. One towel toward the center of this great patchwork is embroidered em·broi·der
v. em·broi·dered, em·broi·der·ing, em·broi·ders
1. To ornament with needlework: embroider a pillow cover.
2. with Durer's Hare (date and monogram monogram [Gr.,=single letter], symbol of a name or names, consisting typically of a letter or several letters worked together. A famous monogram is that of Christ, consisting of X (chi) and P (rho), the first two letters of Christ in Greek. included), in white on a pink background. The allusive al·lu·sive
Containing or characterized by indirect references: an allusive speech.
al·lu process here is rather complex, in that it refers not just to Durer but to Polke himself. He has often borrowed from Durer (the tutelary figure of German art, referenced also by Joseph Beuys in his time), for example in the series of eight "Durer-Schleifen-Bildern" (Durer-curlicues-pictures, 1986). In 1968 he even painted the Hare itself, on a ground of printed cloth. As with the clothing appliqued into Vermessen der Kleider, an equivocal game begins, a play on canvas as cloth and vice versa VICE VERSA. On the contrary; on opposite sides. . The game is advanced by the flap of canvas that overflows the stretcher and dangles from the work's right side, demonstrating to dreamers and the distracted that kitchen cloths and paintings share not only, sometimes, the same visual sources of inspiration but the same fabric of support.
Polke's link with painting's history clearly goes far beyond iconography. The two "Lapis Lazuli" he made for the Nimes exhibition, using a blue pigment prized in the Renaissance, participate in the new deal he has effected at the heart of abstract painting, confusing our received ideas of abstraction by peopling his canvases with puddles and stains suspended between form and informe, with images in the process of becoming, disclosed in part or not at all according to each viewer's fantasy. This principle of ambiguity, or rather of doubt, is most obvious in the imposing Marienerscheinung (The apparition apparition, spiritualistic manifestation of a person or object in which a form not actually present is seen with such intensity that belief in its reality is created. of the Virgin Mary, 1994), a mural over 16 feet high, strewn strew
tr.v. strewed, strewn or strewed, strew·ing, strews
1. To spread here and there; scatter: strewing flowers down the aisle.
2. with a mass of blue dots that gets denser toward the bottom. Reversing the process of "abstraction" illustrated by Theo van Doesburg's canonical Cow, 1925--a process of moving from the representational image to an abstract form of it--Marienerscheinung recalls not only Rorschach but Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo da Vinci (də vĭn`chē, Ital. lāōnär`dō dä vēn`chē), 1452–1519, Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, and scientist, b. near Vinci, a hill village in Tuscany. , who recommended training oneself to see landscapes and figures in old walls and stones; Pollock again, especially in the post-1950 work; and more broadly the whole perennial problematic of the accidental image. These works leave the at once flattering and difficult role of completing them entirely to the viewer.
With an intelligence sufficiently rare to be worth noting, a recent monograph on Goya closes with a quick suggestion of the relationship between Polke's work and that of the Spanish painter.(1) The author compares certain of Polke's paintings to the "Disparates" (Follies), Goya's famous etchings of 1824, but surely the earlier "Caprichos" would have been just as appropriate, (Indeed the monograph even reproduces a Polke work, So sitzen Sie richtig (nach Goya), that quotes Goya's Capricho 26.) In European art of Goya's time, the term capricho, "caprice ca·price
a. An impulsive change of mind.
b. An inclination to change one's mind impulsively.
c. ," in effect connotes the absolute sovereignty of invention. And Polke--this leaps out at you--is a true Mother of Invention.
1. Janis Tomlinson, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, 1746-1828, London: Phaidon, 1994.
Jean-Pierre Criqui is an art historian, critic, curator, and the editor of Les Cahiers du Musee National d'Art Moderne mo·derne
Striving to be modern in appearance or style but lacking taste or refinement; pretentious.
[French, modern, from Old French; see modern.]
Adj. 1. , Paris.
Translated from the French by Sheila Glaser.