Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)
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Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)

Untitled

Details
Martin Kippenberger (1953-1997)
Untitled
oil on canvas
94½ x 78 5/8in. (240 x 200cm.)
Painted in 1988
Provenance
Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1998.
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Lot Essay

Martin Kippenberger's Untitled, painted in 1988, towers over the viewer. This vast canvas is filled with brushstrokes, some of them figurative, others emphatically gestural. Flowers litter the surface while, in the more general morass of colours that occupies so much of the picture, other passages of paint slip away from a coherent reading, remaining ever-elusive. Some of the oils have been built up into highly-textured, richly-impastoed abstract flourishes. Over the top is a blue-print-like form that reveals Kippenberger adopting the visual language of plans and designs yet which has itself been scrawled, becoming a distinctly ridiculous entity that recalls the Psychobuildings he created the same year.

In Kippenberger's self-penned curriculum vitae, he explained that in 1988, he had moved to Spain with Albert Oehlen. Spain had a massive influence on Kippenberger's work that year: he focussed particularly on painting, in part inspired by being in the homeland of Pablo Picasso, arguably the Twentieth Century's greatest painter. Kippenberger's own oeuvre is a deliberately, even gleefully, irreverent bastardised reflection of Picasso's. Like the Spanish painter, Kippenberger deliberately employed a number of styles, a number of media, a number of disciplines in order to create his works. However, in stark contrast to his predecessor, his intention was to dismantle artistic hierarchies, toppling the pedestal upon which Picasso had been placed. In Untitled, that multiplicity is evident in the myriad styles with which it has been painted: this work is a microcosm of the revolutionary, destabilising strategy with which Kippenberger undermined identity politics in a multimedia broadside.

Kippenberger claimed that the artistic practice that he developed, in which he shunned any single style, instead shifting from genre to genre and medium to medium, purposefully upsetting any attempts to pigeonhole him or pin him down, had emerged during his childhood, when he had copied the works of artists who featured in the books owned by his parents:

'I drew my way through all the art books on the book shelves. That helped me to see things more clearly than if I'd just looked at the pictures. You find out how difficult it is to do certain things, that you're just not able. Then my father said that if I wanted to be an artist, I'd have to find my own style. That was the hardest thing of all for me. Finding my own style, I got very stuck until I suddenly realised that having no style is also a style, so that's what I did. That set me free. Don't worry about style but about what you want to say' (Kippenberger, quoted in D. Baumann, 'Parachever Picasso/Completing Picasso: Interview between Martin Kippenberger and Daniel Baumann', pp. 59-65, D. Krystof & J. Morgan (ed.), Martin Kippenberger, exh. cat., London 2006, p. 59).

In that context, it appears as little coincidence that this picture resembles the transparency paintings of Francis Picabia as well as the multi-layered images of fellow German artist Sigmar Polke. In its painterly abstraction, it recalls that giant of post-war German art, Gerhard Richter. Meanwhile, some of the kaleidoscopic areas of mingled, almost marbled oils recall de Kooning's paintings; the gestural quality that fills the canvas also appears to lampoon the Neo-Expressionism that had been such a significant force in the art world in Germany over the previous decade; one wonders if the flowers that litter this composition are not a deliberate taunt. The variety of textures, of brushstrokes, recalls some of Kippenberger's own successors such as Daniel Richter and Franz Ackermann, yet the overall effect is paradoxically very much his own.

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