Martin Kippenberger, born in Germany in 1953, produced a rich and diverse body of work from the mid 70s until his untimely death in 1997 at the age of 44. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of his time, and rapidly becoming a cult figure for younger generations of artists, he was as much a painter as he was an architect, writer, poet, underground club manager, promoter and curator, with his notorious hyperactivity making him a very difficult artist to classify.
Signs of good humour often erupt in his work, where banal jokes and quick-wittedness are often intermingled with arbitrarily-staged cryptic allusions, in a constant invitation for the awkward and unshapely. Kippenberger was also very successful in his strategy of producing embarrassment and disturbance, but his underlying goal, even in the early 80s when most youth movements became media events, was the credibility of his role as a contemporary artist, and it is clear that the acid humour in his art is but a bleak consolation when confronted the truth.
Untitled (Juhnke) belongs to a series of portraits called A celebrity in film, radio, television and police stations that Kippenberger made in 1981/82, examining the faces of the public domain. Harrald Juhnke was a notorious German actor and singer, as well known for his films as for being an alcoholic. Kippenberger painted all the portraits with a stylistic unpredictability, using the entire colour spectrum and alternating between spatula work, smudging, layering and spraying, making these works a classic example of his approach to art: his ability to use banal subject matter while building and adding complexity to it.