Photographs by Sigmar Polke. Edited by Tim Nye. Essay by Mariette Althaus.
Foundation 20 21, New York, 2006. 73 pp., 37 tritone illustrations, 9¾x12½".
About the Ltd Edition
Sigmar Polke is an icon of contemporary art, with the
reputation of an art world maverick. His paintings are
experimental and provocative. In a classic tabloid
moment, Mariette Althaus, Polke's girlfriend from early
in his career, has just released some of his photographs
from 1969–74. As a society we make pilgrimages—to
Giverny, Ghost Ranch, Jim Morrison's grave or anywhere
else that connects us with a famous and admired
artist. This latest offering on Polke is an interesting addition
to the genre of "historical finds."
Thirty-two tritone images on heavy paper are housed
in a nondescript, cardboard box. When you open the
box you enter the world of early '60s Polke. The fascinating
photos, which are arguably the worst of the
snapshot variety and are all black-and-white experimentalism,
still carry the excitement and energy of the artist
at a pivotal time in his career. There are four consecutive
images of Mariette, some more overexposed than others,
but with no notable variation. Polke was fascinated
by the infinite possibilities in the making of the photograph,
whether it was through chemical experimentation,
creasing or otherwise unpacking and exposing the
codes and structures of image making. These photos
embody youth (Mariette and Sigmar nude with flowers
on their bodies), a period of growing success for Polke
(Mariette holding a huge handful of bills) and an unrestrained
The photographs span five years of Polke's career,
and even in the constraints of a cardboard box Polke
refuses to be categorized. His irreverent photography
exudes spontaneity. Mariette Althaus's essay reminisces
on these photographs as an experimental period when
convention was consciously spurned. One may question
her motives in releasing the photos, but ultimately we
are happy that she did. It is as good as finding a
stranger's photos in the attic, only much better for they
are Polke's.-SHEILAH WILSON
Read Publisher's Description.
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