Sigmar Polke was one of the most prolific experimental artists of the twentieth century
The Tate Modern in London will presents a comprehensive retrospective, encompassing Polke’s whole range of media he worked with during his five-decade career, including painting, photography, film, prints, and sculpture. The artist worked in “off-the-wall” materials ranging from meteor dust to gold, bubble wrap, snail juice, potatoes, soot and even uranium, all the while resisting easy categorisation.
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, from latin:“in or at another place”, which also suggests a deflection of blame. It would be impossible to understand this attitude, and the creativity that grew out of it, without considering the artis’s backgorund.
This exhibition places Polke’s enormous skepticism of all social, political, and artistic traditions against German history and the country’s transformation in the postwar period.
In various works in display, Polke opposes many Germans of his generation’s tendency to ignore the Nazi past (with the alibi: “I didn’t see anything”), as if picking off the scab to reopen the wound.
Alibis: Sigmar Polke 1963–2010
Tate Modern: Exhibition
9 October 2014 – 8 February 2015
Text by Irene Pazzanese