"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." Elisabeth Sussman
Made in Western Germany is part of Rosemary Trockel’s critically acclaimed, widely discussed and exhibited, and influential series of machined-wool textile pieces that are regarded as a hallmark of her art practice. This visually striking and intellectually challenging artwork presents in appearance as an almost entirely dark monochrome color, when viewed from a distance. When viewed from a closer vantage point, however, the phrase “Made in Western Germany” woven in contrasting yarn across the surface of the piece becomes apparent against the darker background material. The pattern of repeating a single motif seemingly endlessly across the knitted field’s surface area evokes Minimalist Art practice, a field that Trockel is both influenced by and making reference to in this work. The text—rendered in an impersonal, technological, computer-like font—is small and very closely spaced, so much so that from a distance the individual words and phrases lose their clarity as distinct lines of text and become more readable as pattern than as language. Choosing to work with textile material affords Trockel an opportunity to explore the tensions of stereotypical divisions between feminine connotations of craft versus notions of industrial production traditionally understood as masculine. By creating her art via computer-controlled processes (traditionally seen as masculine), Trockel further explores these ingrained feminine/masculine assumptions.
Although over her lengthy career Trockel has worked in many different media and with a wide diversity of materials, she has never lost her interest in creating machined-wool textile pieces such as the present work, and has returned to the strategy a number of times since the decade of the 1980s, when Made in Western Germany was created. To realize this and comparable works, Trockel programmed an industrial textile machine to knit the title phrase into the wool. The works in the Strickbilder series constitute an influential body of work that explores themes pertaining to feminism, artistic production, craft, mass production and notions of originality and uniqueness. The phrase “made in Western Germany” serves both as a reference to the artist’s place of birth and as a commentary on the commodification of art and artists. Trockel’s art reflects the influence of avant-garde art movements of the 1960s in their radical questioning of traditional materials and strategies that have historically been used in the visual arts. The mass produced origins of much of her work reflects Minimalist Art’s use of industrial fabrication techniques in preference to hand work, while her choice of materials and iconography suggest correspondences with Pop Art’s concerns with serial production and preference for low culture themes and everyday materials. The tensile quality of her materials and merging of fastidious craft attention with the conceptual recalls the Post-Minimal sculptures of Eva Hesse.
The ideas explored in Trockel’s work have close affinities with several influential, international women artists of her generation, including Barbara Kruger, Cindy Sherman and Jenny Holzer, all of whom she has exhibited with at the Monika Spruth Gallery in Cologne, Germany. Trockel’s wool paintings were conceived as a rejoinder to critical commentary that suggested that art created by women should remain outside the established fine art canon, and instead be relegated to the domestic realm of arts and crafts. Her choice of materials reflects a strategy of commenting on the male-dominated art world of the era from which Trockel emerged. Challenging clichés and prejudices about women’s art, one of the goals of Trockel’s practice is to explore the assumed hierarchy of artistic mediums based on gender.
Rosemarie Trockel emerged as an artist in a milieu where few women were acknowledged as artists of the first rank and where gender-based concepts tended to dominate discussion of artistic merit. Now she is considered “among the most respected female artists working today” (“50 Next Most Collectible Artists: Rosemarie Trockel,” Art + Auction, June 2012, pp. 99, 112) and her work among the most collectible of any contemporary artist. A practitioner working across a diverse range of media, art critics tend to discuss her contribution in regard to a set of persistent themes that can be identified across her entire body of work rather than any one particular style. These themes include: the female role in society, commercial trademarks and symbols as social signifiers and decorative motifs; and a fascination with ethnographic and scientific studies. Her reputation as an artist is international in scope. She has exhibited extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Trockel has also participated in several international biennials, and her work has been featured in multiple prominent art world publications. Her art has been awarded numerous prizes, including the 2011 Kaiserring, one of the most prestigious prizes for contemporary art, recognized and respected internationally. Her achievements have been celebrated in solo exhibitions around the world, and her creations are included in major museum collections, notably the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London.