The connotations of this decision are manifold. It subverts the craft of the great German painters while simultaneously invoking the industrial manufacturing processes of the American Minimalists, such as Carl Andre and Donald Judd. The parallels between her work and theirs are striking, and yet do we consider the heroic masculine brutalism of the Minimalists in the same way that we do Trockel’s knitted pictures? We probably should. Both Judd and Trockel were thrust into an artistic milieu dominated by a narrative of the artist-celebrity-genius; in America this meant Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, in Germany, Baselitz, Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. In response, both Judd and Trockel conceived of a form of art that demanded an entirely different value metric to the work of their elders. Industrial precision subverts individual genius, the line between artwork and object is blurred, and meaning is no longer intrinsic but rather emerges from the work’s dialogue with the viewer.
Indeed, Ohne Titel is ostensibly a utilitarian object, pedestalised and placed on a wall. Its dimensions approximate the size of a piece of fabric bought from a wholesaler, and its pattern is reminiscent of one used for clothing. Indeed, it is a fairly masculine pattern. The colour sequence is aggressive, with jet black and iron-grey diamonds marching uniformly along a blood red field. However, there is no utility to be derived here. Knitted objects are begun with the final entity in mind – you cannot buy a panel of wool and make a jumper – and even if you could, the object has been framed and mounted. Any signifiers of domesticity have been removed – the panel is an object without function.
As Silvia Eiblmayr explains, Trockel executed these works “in order, on the one hand, to undermine the gesture of genius in painting and, on the other, to subvert the complex of production of body images and logo identities by the fashion industry” (Silvia Eiblmayr cited in: Exh. Cat., Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, 2005, p.16). Deeply elegant in its aesthetic and rigorous in its conceptual basis, Ohne Titel stands as a testament to the immense power of Rosemarie Trockel pioneering opus. It is a strident cry against the misogyny of the artistic establishment, and the emergence of a new generation of artists grounded in concept rather than prescribed individual genius.
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