Martin Kippenberger was fascinated by how he was perceived by society and how he saw himself as an artist who was continuously striving to create significant work. Deconstructing his own ideas of art history and blending them with current underground trends or popular ideas through the use of a variety of media, Kippenberger made his work into a diary of personal obsessions. His multi-faceted view of the world with its boundless visual and intellectual stimuli were awe-inspiring. Gaining recognition in the 1980s in Germany at a time when post-modernism and neo-expressionism dominated artistic thought, Kippenberger found an ideal platform to question everything about the role of the artist and the creative act of making art itself. Kippenberger felt the urge and freedom to make anything and everything, anytime. For him, the act of creation was about the depletion of one's energy, about exhausting oneself to the degree where art became ridiculous.
Entwurf für die Verbesserung des Rückenschwimmens in Rio II or Design for the improvment of backstroke in Rio II, from 1986 is an excellent example of Kippenberger's ironic challenge to the concept of painting. The ready-mades on the left side of the painting made with beach towels stitched together and the monochrome sand painting to the right are divided by a luscious streak of blue paint suggesting the sea. The styrofoam on the towel could have been flung there by a dadaist whimsically casting objects onto a random surface. Art history is casually referenced: from action painting and combine painting to the rough surfaces of the Spanish post-war painters. The result, rather than being a confused mêlée of influences, is a playful but questioning pun on the meaning of a painting and a direct challenge to the strict, virtuoso technique of Gerhard Richter.
'He unsettles the public with his belligerent strategies and his spontaneous - humorous to sarcastic - pictorial compositions. And he was never afraid to be embarrassing or insulting. Many still regard him today as a post-modern Bohemian.' (from 'Nach Kippenberger' exh. cat. Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, November 2003-February 2004).