Martin Kippenberger's depiction of a crucifixion spread across four canvases is a haunting example of the artist's unrivalled ability to draw together seemingly conflicting references and artistic styles into one magnificent, coherent work. Linked to his Fred the Frog series begun in 1988, Lattengustl continues his dialogue about the nature of symbolic representation. Along with the egg, the frog became one of the most important motifs in Kippenberger's oeuvre, representing the transformations of changing life situations, in the case of Fred, the classic fairytale of the frog turning into the handsome prince. Always guaranteed to stir strong emotions, Kippenberger used the image of a crucified frog to debate the duality of representation and define how that can change in any given context. This is also demonstrated in the arrangement of the canvases themselves, spaced exactly five centimetres apart when viewed from a distance the work changes from being four canvases into one giant canvas with a giant cross superimposed built cleverly built into the composition. The central figure on the cross has been interpreted to be Kippenberger himself due to the inclusion of one of his symbolic fried eggs. Often used by the artist to reference himself, this motif was an image that the artist embraced as a symbol of both the fragility of life and also a symbol of rebirth and resurrection. Kippenberger's replacement of the Latin word 'INRI', traditionally found at the head of the Cross at Jesus' Crucifixion, with the words 'IN' and 'OUT' reinforces the artist's interest in the brutally cyclical nature of life, in which there are only two certainties - birth and death.
Lattengustl is a complex work filled with contradictions and juxtapositions; life and death, humour and sadness and colour and monochrome. Kippenberger's mysterious title is a mixture of seemingly opposing meanings that reinforce its links birth and death. The word 'Lattengustl' is a Bavarian satirical paraphrase for Jesus but broken into its constituent parts, Latte also means 'wooden slat' in addition to being the Bavarian short form of the first name of August or Gustav. By joining together in one word the references to the wooden slats of the Cross and name of Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time of Jesus' birth, Kippenberger revels in the complexity of his paintings. Kippenberger continues the multifaceted nature of Lattengustl with its references to a character from German medieval folklore. The name 'August' also has a double connotation for German speakers as it also refers to "Dumme August", a mysterious figure that first appeared as a court jester in Middle Ages. The expressive palette of colour which Kippenberger places next to areas of monochrome invokes the schizophrenic nature of the jester's life, locked in servitude purely for the entertainment of others, and thereby reinforces the duality present throughout Lattengustl. Mixing the prominence of the cross with the areas of bright paint seen in two of the four canvases follows a tradition in Kippenberger's work of combining religious imagery with objects seemingly at odds with its sacred message.