Since the beginning of aesthetic Modernity, artists have been attracted to things that lie just beyond the traditional confines of their isolated world as a means of loading their art with pseudo scientific, religious and historical themes. Sigmar Polke and Joseph Beuys had extended the scope of this strategy considerably during the 1960s and 70s, and it is against this background that the recurring, seemingly banal motifs that appear in Kippenberger’s work should be examined.
A symbol of affordable luxury and masculine power synonymous in Germany during the 1980s with the not-really-rich, the Ford Capri is a regular motif in Kippenberger’s work. Simultaneously glamorous and degenerate and embodying the misery of social status symbols, Capri by Night is painted with all the exotica of a crime photo. The black and white palette and the 50x60cm. canvas both recall the artist’s Uno do Voi series of 1976 in which Kippenberger painted a miscellany of everyday subjects as a means of providing a visual diary of his time in Florence. This is visually contrasted by the green half of the composition, which as if viewed through night vision lens, provides a visual reference to the title of work and a mocking acknowledgment the quasi-scientific range of subjects seen in the work of Polke and Beuys.
Capri by Night epitomises the crux of Kippenberger’s Capri concept. The striking vertical division here refers to one of his sculptures, Blaue Lagune, in which he sawed up a blue Ford Capri into pieces and hung them in a gallery. The painterly surface and title refer to an installation by Kippenberger and Albert Oehlen (fig. ???) in which they painted a Capri car with porridge oats. Intended as a satirical interpretation upon the retrogressive material aesthetic of Anselm Kiefer, Kippenberger and Oehlen’s Capri by Night put the focus clearly on the here and now. Like the Uno di Voi, Kippenberger’s Capri series transforms the banal into art and vice –versa and reflects the free for all naïvety with which he approached his art.
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