Polke, Sigmar

Polke, Sigmar, 1941–2011, innovative German artist best known for his paintings and photography. His family immigrated from East to West Germany in 1953, and he lived in Düsseldorf, studying (1961–67) at the Art Academy. In the 1960s he and Gerhard Richter founded a style they called “Capitalist Realism,” a version of pop art with an edge of irreverence, sarcasm, and social criticism. Polke's complex paintings are both figurative and abstract, often mingling the two. He also often dotted his images in imitation of halftone photographs, layered images one upon the other, and employed unusual media such as dust, coffee, fabric, and radioactive material. In later paintings, he used materials that change depending on temperature, time, light, or other factors, and experimented with methods of capturing movement. In the mid-1960s he began making photographs. His photographic images, which reflect his worldwide travels and his life in Hamburg and Cologne, were often manipulated using unusual darkroom techniques.

See K. Halbreich et al., ed., Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963–2010 (museum catalog, 2014).

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