July 3, 2009 - Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art - Sigmar Polke
July 3, 2009

Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke, Untitled
silkscreen 98,2 × 66,9 cm
© Sigmar Polke

Sigmar Polke
The Editions
04.07. – 27.09.2009

Bischofsgartenstraße 1, 

D-50667 Cologne


Sigmar Polke’s editions are not something the artist “does on the side”. They highlight the reproductive techniques which his paintings also return to time after time: printing, complete with raster dots, photographs and Xeroxes. The editions literally render what the paintings simply translate. But they also translate what the artist himself has painted, or anticipate it. The editions are an important element in Polke’s enquiry into the representation and duplication of the world.

Our exhibition covers the entire history of the editions, right back to over forty years ago. Rare prints and reworkings are as much a part of this as the inserts he put into newspapers in runs of many thousands. Since 1963 and above all after 1967, Polke has produced numbered editions. Back then was the heyday of prints and graphic art, but Polke adopted a highly unusual technique: offset printing. Offset printing, which has only ever interested a handful of artists, is also the medium in which many of Polke’s images first originated. Because offset is the medium of the yellow press, whose illustrations Polke has used for his own purposes. So printing the editions took the artist’s preoccupation with mass communications back to its very origins. But Polke would not be Polke if a great deal didn’t happen along the way. Not only does he tear the images out of their original contexts and place them in new company, he manipulates them with every trick in the book. Every conceivable effect is employed – from enlargement and colorizing to smudging, stretching and compressing. Along with every possible technology – from overprinting, punching, and dousing to embossing and spraying. Not to mention every possible material, from gossamer-thin paper to printed cardboard. Since the late sixties, Polke has also enlisted on his own sources; he photographs himself, beggars in Cologne, buildings in Paris, and much, much more. But the real work often begins in the darkroom, where he can play with exposure times and the enlarger.

And these almost magically transformed photographs likewise appear as editions.That Polke crumples photos up and then photographs them again fits into his philosophy, which accords more power to the representation than to what is represented. And yet another technology has proved handy here: Xeroxing. The original can be quickly whisked through, the exposure interrupted or deliberately spoilt. Which results in heads with elongated necks, sloping mountains and wild shadows – a cabinet of deformed curiosities. Scarcely another artist has shown such zest in experimenting with printing, and scarcely another has proved to be as funny as Sigmar Polke.

Thanks to a generous donation by the husband and wife collectors Anna Friebe-Reininghaus and Ulrich Reininghaus, Museum Ludwig is now in the position to present all the richness of this oeuvre, created by one of the most important and innovative artists of our times.

Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art
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