Skarstedt is thrilled to announce our upcoming exhibition, Martin Kippenberger: Paintings 1984-1996. Conceived in honor of what would have been Martin Kippenberger’s 70th birthday on February 25th, the exhibition looks at the many through-lines of some of the most important series in his short but wildly influential career. The exhibition will feature paintings from such well-known bodies of work as the The I.N.P. Pictures, Self-Portraits, Fred the Frog, War Wicked, Hand-Painted Pictures, and Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn’t Paint Anymore, along with paintings illustrating his deep affinity for the motif of the egg. Opening on March 9, Martin Kippenberger: Paintings 1984-1996 also celebrates the release of Volume Two of Kippenberger’s catalogue raisonné, published by the Estate of Martin Kippenberger in collaboration with Galerie Gisela Captain.
Kippenberger’s oeuvre is marked by a harsh criticism of the artistic status quo and an exploration of daily life issues through provocative imagery and humorous discourse rendered in a vast array of styles. Nevertheless, certain recurring motifs and ideas tie these disparate images together. Indeed, the artist himself has served as the subject of many of his most important paintings, such as Down with Inflation (from the series The I.N.P. Pictures) (1984); Untitled (from the series Self-Portraits) (1988); and Untitled Self-Portrait (from the series Hand-Painted Pictures) (1992), all on view in the exhibition. In Down with Inflation, for example, Kippenberger bears his lower half to us, his pants drooped around his ankles revealing a pair of white boxer briefs, while a suit jacket and tie on his upper body adds a sense of propriety that furthers the hilarity of the scene. In this way, Kippenberger uses his body as a vehicle to raise questions about ingrained social identities and how they inform the absurdity of our cultures.
In a similarly comical manner, Kippenberger again appears before us like an odalisque in Untitled, from his popular Hand-Painted Pictures series, made in 1992 while living on the Greek island of Syros and in Frankfurt, Germany. Using photographs he took of himself in Venice, California, between 1989-1990 as his source, this painting utilizes a brutally honest depiction of himself to speak to the artistic challenges surrounding the cult of the artist, the mythification of the figure, and how to present himself to the world, alongside issues of authorship and originality. Meanwhile, his Untitled (from the series Self-Portraits) likewise shows him in white boxer briefs and using photography as a source to harshly critique himself. This time, however, his visage operates in direct dialogue with similar images of Pablo Picasso. Picasso’s prowess, masculinity, and stance in art history as the ultimate genius is another through-line in Kippenberger’s oeuvre. Along with the Hand-Painted Pictures, he appears as a ghostly presence in Untitled (from the series Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn’t Paint Anymore) (1996). Working from photos of Picasso’s last wife, Jacqueline Picasso, taken in 1973 while she was mourning the artist’s death, Kippenberger literally picks up where Picasso left off, thereby evoking an artistic lineage between himself and Picasso.
Other motifs that held great significance for Kippenberger—particularly the egg, the canary, and Fred the Frog—appear in the exhibition in Untitled (from the series War Wicked) (1991-1992), and Dinosaurierei (Dinosaur Egg) (1996). Like Fred the Frog’s evocation of transformation painted six years earlier, as seen in Untitled (from the series Fred the Frog) (1989-90), the egg is a harbinger of life, and its spherical form symbolizes infinite regeneration. Famously claiming that “justice hasn’t been done to the egg,” this underutilized motif gave Kippenberger a wealth of ways to express a range of paint techniques and pictorial concepts.