German artist Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) is widely regarded as one of the most influential artists of the postwar generation. Polke possessed an irreverent wit that, coupled with his exceptional grasp of the properties of his materials, pushed him to experiment freely with the conventions of art and art history. Constantly searching, Polke studiously avoided any one signature style or medium; his method exemplified the definition of alibi, “in or at another place,” which also suggests a deflection of blame.
One of the most provocative artists of postwar Europe, Sigmar Polke has created works critical of Western culture since 1963, when he and fellow artist Gerhard Richter began using photography as the basis for paintings that satirized the look and message of consumer culture. Since that time Polke has continued to use photography as the breeding ground for innovation.
Polke considers the darkroom a sort of alchemic laboratory in which he can explore infinite mutations of imagery. With the negative in his enlarger, the artist developed this large sheet selectively, pouring on photographic solutions and repeatedly creasing and folding wet paper. The resulting abstract organic forms thus issue from and reexpress the boozy, convivial energy of the scene.
During his lifetime, Polke was included in numerous international biennales, including documenta, the Bienal de São Paulo, and the Venice Biennale, and received a number of awards, including the Golden Lion for his solo presentation at the West German Pavilion in 1986 at the Venice Biennale, the Erasmus Prize (1994), the Carnegie Prize (1995), the Praemium Imperiale (2002), and the Roswitha Haftmann-Preis (2010), among others. In addition to Galerie René Block, Galerie Schmela, Galerie Heiner Friedrich, and Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Polke showed regularly at Galerie BAMA, Paris, Galerie Toni Gerber, Bern, and Michael Werner Gallery, Berlin and New York.
Polke’s work is included in the permanent collections of major museums around the world, including Art Institute of Chicago; The Broad, Los Angeles; Centre Georges Pompidou - Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris; Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; and Tate, London, among others.