acrylic paint, silicon and stickers on canvas
In a comeback to Joseph Beuys’ famous declaration, “Everyone is an artist,” Kippenberger had once said “Every artist is a person”, and this satirical yet profound outlook is epitomised by this iconic and complex autobiographical work of 1985. Executed during the fecund zenith of the artist’s creative maturity, the present work immediately sets Kippenberger's contradictory and multivalent nature into play. As the title of the painting tells us, the picture here conveys the wrong logo of ‘The Lord Jim Lodge’ - a secret society of which Kippenberger was a member along with a number of fellow German contemporary artists. Although its beginnings are unclear, an anecdotal story of the Lodge’s formation involves a cardboard box being passed around Berlin’s Paris Bar late one night, and anyone who deposited a small fee became a lifetime member. Kippenberger, who was the self-appointed curator of the Paris Bar’s now-renowned art collection, uses the Lodge’s logo in various guises throughout much of his work of the 1980s. The logo consists of a hammer smashing into a rayed sun, a spider’s web and a pair of breasts over the acronym N.H.M, which stands for the lodge’s motto: ‘Niemand Hilft Niemand’ or Nobody Helps Nobody’.
Although the Lodge’s striking hammer was essentially adopted by Kippenberger as his own motif, the entire composition is rife with symbolism and allusion. The layered impenetrability of the background suggests a wooden door or floor as locked and steadfast as the society. The day-glow spider’s web weaving its way through the rays of the centrally positioned sun is another recurring motif of Kippenberger’s work. He had read somewhere that spiders spin their web differently under the influence of various drugs and the hallucinatory use of colour here reflects this. Kippenberger also had a profound knowledge of art history and he would have been familiar with the Modernist ‘Spiderman Atelier’ and the role of drug names in their paintings. The web here also functions as a map of accumulated information, alluded to by the various tourist labels scattered around the periphery of the canvas. For Kippenberger, knowledge and experience was the prerequisite condition to finding new ways of extending art history in valid ways. Expressing his tongue in cheek love for the banal, low brow and bad-taste alongside that of two of Germany’s two most prominent artists of the 20th century, ‘Polke + Baselitz’, Kippenberger provides a sublime realisation of his quest to disprove and ridicule the romantic notion of the artist. By likening Polke and Baselitz, and by extension himself, to the pornographer Larry Flint, Schnapps, and the Underground system, Kippenberger strips away art’s cultured veneer to expose its often absurd dysfunctionality.
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