Across the vast expanse of four conjoined canvases, U.N. Building - The Home of Peace, painted in 1984 depicts that iconic bastion of global cooperation and union in an explosive, expressive manner which would imply painterly war more than peace. Originally created in the wake of the second world war as the first step towards a more harmonised global world, the UN building was situated at the centre of global superpower, in New York and the building which represented it was built in 1949- 50 to a design by Wallace Harrison, the architect of the Rockefeller family, who had been instrumental in finding the land in Manhattan. A monument to a new kind of thinking and a better world, the United Nations building was an extremely futuristic building for its time, its slick lines cut into the cityscape with dazzling awe. Here, thirty five years on, Kippenberger has attacked the building with an aggressive expression which deliberately undermines the authority of the institution. Its solid concrete exterior, which could be perceived as a shield from dangerous forces, has been ripped open and made totally transparent in an ironic painterly commentary which continued his celebrated series of architectural works.
The series looked at buildings which represented 'safe havens' and protection from the outside world, such as sanatoriums (The Betty Ford Clinic), museums (The Guggenheim) and schools (Jewish Elementary School), but he stripped them apart to expose their façade. He turned them into mad institutions using an array of colour and frantic gesture which somehow debased their serious social intent. During the mid- 1980s, Kippenberger became increasingly involved with the theme of architecture, as was demonstrated in several series of pictures. Kippenberger was using these buildings as part of his relentless and irreverent attack on institutions and institutional thinking on many levels. He was railing against authority in these paintings, and indeed undermining the process of representation itself: U.N. Building - The Home of Peace has taken the crisp blueprints of architecture and reinvented them according to Kippenberger's own dystopian methodology. Kippenberger appears to have taken some of the lessons of the New York School of the post-War era and slyly applied them to the U.N. Across the constructed space of four canvases, Kippenberger has depicted the New York landmark in an agitated frenzy; some of the details have been picked out with glue-like silicon squeezed from a tube, its opacity a punning device used to capture some of the glass. Paint, too, has been applied directly in toothpaste-like tracks jutting from the surface, adding a playful quality to the picture which, combined with the intense gesturality, appears wholly at odds with the rigidity, austerity and authority of the edifice in question. In the union of the four elements which make up the composition the top right and bottom left elements mirror each other as do the top left and bottom right in a kind of architectural ying and yang.
As well as exploring concepts of architecture, institutionalism and representation, Kippenberger has used the U.N. Building as a cipher, a mirror into which we read our own subjective historical interpretations. Of course, he is leading us both with the flagrantly disrespectful manner in which he has rendered the building and the fact that he has given it a subtitle that the viewer cannot help but find, considering its author, ironic. The U.N. was as relevant to the political and military situations of the day as it is now; and of course its very foundation was the result of strife, an attempt to create an organization that would avert future conflict in the wake of the Second World War. Here Kippenberger has started his own war.