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Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction

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London

Sigmar Polke
1941 - 2010
TISCHGESELLSCHAFT
signed and dated 96
gouache, acrylic and interference on paper
70 by 100 cm. 27 1/2 by 39 3/8 in.
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We are most grateful to Mr. Michael Trier, Artistic Director from the Estate of Sigmar Polke, for the information he has kindly provided. 

Provenance

Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Catalogue Note

Tischgesellschaft provides a remarkable paradigm of Sigmar Polke’s abiding commitment to the complexities of postmodern pictorial expression, and its inherent dualities of figuration and abstraction, historicism and contemporaneity. Translated to Table Society in English, the present work exhibits a profoundly layered image of five men gathered around a small table, perhaps gambling, playing cards or discussing a complex scientific problem. The earnest posturing and contemplative expressions of this assembled group echo the neoclassical tableaus of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century, including those of English painters and printmakers William Hogarth and James Gillray. Their etched political and social satires were highly influential and mass-produced via prints during this innovative period, thus Polke undoubtedly looked to Hogarth and Gillray’s cartoon-like aesthetic and adoption of mass-distribution in his own painterly articulations centuries later. Yet in the present work, Polke powerfully reconstructs such historical, visually rich tableaus for a contemporary audience through his vibrant use of colour, abstract brushstrokes and the iconic half-tone dot pattern. Here Polke’s celebrated raster dots boldly outline the figures and the table they sit around, undoubtedly evoking the transient images of newspapers, mass media and commercial printing processes of the early Twentieth-Century.

The present work magnificently displays Polke’s mastery in the medium of oil and acrylic, which is applied to the paper in a highly gestural and painterly manner.  The background illuminates saturated hues of sky blue, teal, magenta and canary yellow in a style that is almost psychedelic, and the brilliant freedom of gesture in the background of Tischgesellschaft stands in bold contrast to the precise, meticulous pattern of raster dots superimposed over the chromatic array of pigment. The dots illuminate Polke’s characteristic use of found images, usually from newspapers, where the source image has been blurred to the point of intense pixilation. Here the artist has translated the mass-produced, small-scale image to paper, and the magnified raster dots manifest an image that deceptively oscillates between figuration and abstraction. Indeed, the juxtaposition between the kaleidoscopic background and mechanical foreground offer Polke’s viewers a sense of optic disorientation intrinsic to the artist’s wider oeuvre. Art historian Donald Kuspit has suggested, “Polke uses abstraction – a kind of abstract if mechanical process—to punch holes in the representation of social reality—the dots are so many holes undermining the image they form—suggesting that it is a mass deception” (Donald Kuspit cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963 – 2010, 2014, p. 74).

Tischgesellschaft recalls significant works by Polke in the revered collection of Reiner Speck, one of the most important German collectors of the contemporary period. The present work and those in the Speck collection distinctly exhibit Polke’s celebrated invocation of mass media as well as his amalgamation of high and low culture, the latter of which perfectly embodies Polke’s question of “what it might mean for mediums to infiltrate one another” (Mark Godfrey cited in: Ibid., p. 136). As one of the most significant artists of his time, Polke strikingly interrogates the set of rules that govern the semiotic vernacular of art, and Tischgesellschaft stands as an enriching example of Polke’s unrelenting artistic evolution.

 

Contemporary Art Day Auction

|
London