“The fulcrum of his artistic ideas was his own persona. It was always the person Martin Kippenberger that faced up to everyday reality. He described himself as 'one of you' and declared that 'every artist is also a human being', turning Beuys's famous dictum the other way. His own individuality, with all its vulnerability and particular life circumstances served as a source of inspiration for his art' (E. Meyer-Hermann, 'Yes, I am also a woman. Tragedies of the Flesh', Kippenberger Meets Picasso, exh. cat., Museo Picasso, Malaga 2011, p. 63).”
Skarstedt is pleased to present Martin Kippenberger: Hand Painted Pictures, an exhibition of the artist’s self-portraits on view from November 11 – December 16, 2017 at Skarstedt Upper East Side, 20 East 79th Street, New York, NY 10075.
Painted in 1992, the series was created on the island of Syros, Greece and in the artist’s Frankfurt studio. Hand Painted Pictures represents the second of three major cycles of self-portraits in Kippenberger’s oeuvre and demonstrates the artist’s preoccupation with the subject of self-representation. The paintings were first exhibited at Max Hetzler Gallery in Cologne, Germany in October of 1992. This fall, 12 of the 23 works initially shown together in ‘92 will be reunited at Skarstedt, marking the first exhibition dedicated entirely to this series since their initial debut.
Masterfully painted, the portraits were derived from two sets of photographs of the artist: some taken by Jory Felice in Venice Beach, L.A. in 1989-1990 and others taken later on in Frankfurt in 1992. Each radically unlike the other, these diverse portrayals of the artist reflect on his own conflicting perceptions of the artist’s role in society. Throughout his whole body of work, Kippenberger challenges pre-existing notions of the art world’s status quo. In keeping with his relentless assault against traditional styles, techniques and ideologies, Kippenberger notoriously created work that was “styleless.”
Classical art history celebrates portraiture as one of the highest genres of art for its ability to elevate the status of the sitter. Here, Martin Kippenberger scraps that institutional notion and instead offers an inglorious, sometimes grotesque, series of self-portraits. Kippenberger is portrayed in “theatrical contortions, exaggeratedly cramped positions, in tight cycling shorts and top, engaged in a cosmic struggle with himself, upside down a la Baselitz, as a skinny-legged naked Olympic sprinter, as a fabulous dancer.” (Daniel Baumann, ‘The way you wear your hat’ in: Exhibition Catalogue, Basel, Kunsthalle Basel, Martin Kippenberger, 1998) Kippenberger’s extended stay in Syros also influenced the subject matter and composition of the paintings, many of which include German phrases translated into Greek letters.
Throughout the series, Kippenberger uses two opposing approaches to the painterly surface. One employs sketchy lines: the artist’s figure becoming increasingly fragmented, even transparent. The second approach is inundated with detail – both in its compositional approach and creative expression. The latter picture planes are either divided into fourths, with different colors delineating the partitions, or are built upon a broad-brush, monochromatic surface. His multi-disciplinary approach to painting re-enforces his unclassifiable artistic style.
Often referencing modern icons and historical figures in his paintings, Kippenberger’s Hand Painted Pictures are at once comical and tragic, serious and subverted, and some of the most important paintings in his oeuvre.