Details
Rosemarie Trockel (b. 1952)
Untitled
signed and dated 'Trockel 88' (on the reverse of the grey element)
diptych--wool mounted on canvas
each: 39½ x 39½ in. (100.3 x 100.3 cm.)
overall: 39½ x 79 in. (100.3 x 200.6 cm.)
Executed in 1988. This work is from an edition of two plus one artist's proof.
Provenance
Baron Boisante Gallery, New York, acquired directly from the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Literature
N. Princenthal, "The Jewel Thief", Art in America, January 2011.
Exhibited
Koln, Museum Ludwig and MAXXI - Museo nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rosemarie Trockel: Post-Menopause, October-August 2006, no. 168 (another example exhibited).
Saratoga Springs, The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, The Jewel Thief, September 2010-February 2011.

Brought to you by

Sara Friedlander
Sara Friedlander

Lot Essay

"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 a Warholian debunking of contemporary art practice" (E. Sussman, "The Body's Inventory," Rosemarie Trockel, exh. cat., Berkeley, 1991, p. 33).

The duck-rabbit is a simple yet ambiguous sketch that can easily be interpreted as depicting both a duck and a rabbit. The psychologist J. Jastrow originally employed it in Fact and Fable in Psychology published in 1900. The image was made famous by Wittgenstein when he used the duck-rabbit as a catalyst for comments concerning observation and interpretation in Philosophical Investigations. Here, Wittgenstein discusses figures which can be seen and understood in two different ways. Often one can see something in a straightforward way--seeing that it is a rabbit, perhaps. But, at other times, one notices a particular aspect--seeing it as something. For example, when one looks at the duck-rabbit and sees a rabbit, one is not interpreting the picture as a rabbit, but rather reporting what one sees. One just sees the picture as a rabbit. Wittgenstein isn't certain what occurs when one sees it first as a duck and then as a rabbit, however, he is certain that the external world stays the same while an internal cognitive change takes place.

Of course Wittgenstein could be in dialogue with Marcel Duchamp on the grounds of their understanding of the relationship between language and nature on the one hand and a possible interweaving of each other's epistemology on the other. Like Duchamp, Wittgenstein saw the establishing of meaning lying outside the problematic--there is no solution since there is no problem. Duchamp and Wittgenstein slide between positions and possibilities in a play of uncertainty in which neither that which can be positively known nor the object of speculation can be endowed with any privilege in art's discourses.

This ambiguity of seeing has existed throughout the course of art history. In Jasper John's Spring, for example, there are many references to the way in which a given image can secrete a secondary meaning that turns its first one inside out. This is a version of the 19th-century visual conundrum in which a drawing of a pretty young woman can also be read as a portrait of an androgynous old woman, and Johns includes a schematic drawing of a decoy duck, which was later developed into a lithograph.

The present example incorporates all of these elements of seeing. Executed from a mixture of acrylic yarn and wool Untitled is executed on a computerized knitting machine by a technician who prepared a knitting program working to the artist's specifications. And what do we see when we observe the above figure? What we see in the above figure, of course, is dependent upon that with which we are familiar.

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