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.
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