“Trockel’s knit works are parodies, a gentle form of aggression for turning the Constructivist notion of art into life and life into art, into the Warholian debunking of contemporary art practice.” (E. SUSSMAN, ‘The Body’s Inventory – The Exotic and Mundane in Rosemarie Tockel’s Art,’ in Rosemarie Trockel, exh. cat., Berkeley University Art Museum, Berkeley, 1991, p. 33)
Although Rosemarie Trockel’s Study for Kind of Blue hangs on the wall in the manner of a traditional painting, the work is made from machine-knitted wool, and forms part of the artist’s wider series of ‘knitting pictures.’ These wool works propelled Trockel to international acclaim when she first introduced the concept in 1985, and have since remained an enduring feature of her oeuvre. Executed in 2012, the composition is immersed in a monochromatic shade of deep indigo: a homogenous tone that invites the viewer to concentrate upon the geometric shape, raw fragmentary wooden frame and rhythmic play of light created by the texture of the wool. Although the pattern of snags and runs that perforate the medium appear to be the product of human error, upon observation it becomes evident that the regularity of these impurities is the result of mechanised production.
By omitting figuration, Trockel instead directs the viewer’s attention to the theoretical foundations of her medium and technique. The work pertains to themes of feminism, artistic production, craft, mass production, the commodification of art, and notions of originality and uniqueness. By using a textile material more commonly associated with the traditionally feminine craft of knitting than with fine art, and by implementing computer controlled mechanics to execute the composition, Trockel deconstructs gender binaries, undermining the long-standing historical assumption that art created by women should be consigned to the realm of arts and crafts. The wool appears unrestricted by its disjointed frame, underscoring the notion that Trockel’s work transcends the traditionally accepted boundaries imposed by art history. Trockel’s art reflects the influence of avant-garde art movements of the 1960s in their radical questioning of traditional materials and strategies that have historically been used in the visual arts. She explains, ‘in the seventies there were a lot of questionable women’s exhibitions, mostly on the theme of house and home. I tried to take wool, which was viewed as a women’s material, out of this context and to rework it in a neutral process of production’ (R. Trockel, quoted in I. Graw, ‘Rosemarie Trockel talks to Isabelle Graw’, in Artforum, March 2003).
Inviting comparison with Andy Warhol’s mass-reproduced aesthetic, Study for Kind of Blue also parallels the critical approaches of 1960s female artists such as Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, who radically questioned traditional materials and practices. The tensile quality of Trockel’s materials and merging of fastidious craft attention with the conceptual share a likeness with the Post-Minimalist sculptures of fellow German artist Eva Hesse. While the theme of subverting the art world’s dichotomous structure remains persistent within Trockel’s ‘knitting-pictures,’ her output has shifted from early works featuring decorative patterns of the Playboy Bunny and domestic products, to compositions characterized by dark monochromatic tones and faceted frames that emphasize the composition’s materiality and means of production. Trockel strikes a balance between aesthetics and politics in Study for Kind of Blue by elegantly subsuming her critique of the omission of women from art history into the very surface of her work.