Marzia Frozen is pleased to announce an international group exhibition of a new generation of artists working today. This will be a group exhibition at MARZIA FROZEN in Berlin, and will feature a selection of paintings, sculptures, photographs, performances and videos.
Martin Kippenberger was the most restless of post-war German artists, his fugitive aesthetic based seemingly on a smash and grab attitude towards both high and popular culture. Partially assimilated images and fragments of language would be smuggled into the frame of painting or drawing with the skilled opportunism of an addict on the hunt for a quick fix. This manic sampling was fuelled by an irrepressible energy that accounts for much of the allure of his activity and reputation. There is a flamboyance, a defiant courting of risk and an easy dexterity that ensure the continuing seductiveness of an unpredictable output.
The compulsive browsing, the artistic wanderlust that makes his various open-ended projects resemble a collection of different passport stamps was of course reflected in a nomadic life-style. This succession of places in which he almost came to rest: Essen, Otterndorf, Hamburg, Berlin, Florence, Stuttgart, St Georgen, Cologne, Paris, Los Angeles, Madrid, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Vienna, Seville, Burgenland, Syros. But this fatiguing litany is as nothing compared to the record of his various hotel visits, deployed crucially in the extensive series of mixed media works using hotel stationery. Kippenberger grounded his volatile oeuvre paradoxically in a concept of fleeting provenance. His suitcase aesthetic derived clearly from a kind of magnetic aversion to the common understanding of ‘home'; he reversed the usual polarity and consequently never looked like he was doing anything more than just passing through.
What makes this proclivity more than just an individual pathology is not simply the transforming power of an overabundant talent, but the degree of its German-ness. Uncomfortable with the idea of heimat in the aftermath of the Second World War, unable to settle exclusively in either West or East, German identity during the period of Kippenberger's maturity is subject to constant displacement. Kippenberger exposes the nerve ends of this condition but not in any melancholic or demoralised fashion; rather, he embraces the divided sensibility of the post-war era and subjects it to a constant electrical stimulation. In his paintings of the 1980s and 1990s there is equal enthusiasm for the appropriation of both communist and capitalist iconography.
On the other side of the spectrum, and on the other side of the political upheavals of the late 1980s and early 1990s, ‘Untitled (Political Corect III)' (1994) and ‘The Spread of Mediocrity' (1994) restore an agitprop immediacy to the illustration of consumer culture and the techniques of global marketing. With a deliberate perversity, Kippenberger abrades the high gloss of western advertising conventions with the simple technology of the stencil and offers a reprise of the Warsaw Bloc practice of reproducing the same advertisement design on a hand-made, individual basis.
With the unification of Germany and the expansion of the European Union, this art of constant border-crossings becomes more relevant, not less. Perhaps the most representative embodiment of transitional culture is Kippenberger's serial work ‘Social Box Transporter' (1989-91). This utilizes the form of the gondola, now almost exclusively a pleasure boat, but loads it with emblematic crates. The same basic craft is rebuilt for successive versions, changing its appearance and composition as it moves forward in time but not in space, often suspended in the wrong medium (air not water). All it carries is emptiness, lack of weight, and in one version where it
is stripped down to keel and ribs, seems on the point of disappearing altogether. This vehicle for absence is a conveyor for two items, ‘Sozial' and ‘Pasta', suggesting an equation between social identity and a now universal foodstuff that both homogenises and dilutes cultural differences (to make, just add water). Its merely superficial divergences from an underlying pattern stabilize around an icon of tourism, proposing this as the fundamental medium of present-day cultural identity. One might contrast Kippenberger's empty vessel with Kabakov's visually similar ‘The Boat of My Life' (1993), freighted with a cargo of deep memories whose imprint seems ineradicable and whose cultural specificity weighs the boat down into history.
The focus of Kippenberger's last years was never far removed from the realization of culture as spectacle, as object of consumption rather than as embodiment of a structure of relations in time and space. This seems to be the obdurate message of the series of watercolours all depicting an individual closed book superimposed with a magnifying glass. Intense scrutiny of the cover will reveal nothing of the hidden content, and yet Kippenberger's obsessive resumption of the same gesture argues for the paralytic condition of postmodern culture, confined within a perpetual present cut off from the history of its origins. Displayed together, this archive of the illegible turns the exhibition into a manifestation of Debord's imagining of the demise of art,
at a moment in history when the artefacts of all cultures of all ages are presented simultaneously in the same terms of intelligibility.
Martin Kippenberger always went too far. Going too far was what the German artist did, in art and in life. It was said he once bought a dilapidated petrol station in Brazil and renamed it Gas Station Martin Boormann, after the Nazi war criminal. It was also rumoured that he installed a telephone line, with the greeting "Boormann... Gaz" on the answerphone. He certainly had a photograph taken of the service station, which he blew up to wall size for an installation.all his work is that. He wants to really invent and with every piece to make something new and to be real avant-garde. All day long and with all of his heart he really does believe in nothing else but in art. He doesn't define it, his father was an artist, he is an artist and his friends are artists.
Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at the age of 44 from cirrhosis brought on by his prodigious drinking, was a live wire. He spoke in pungent aphorisms. He called exhibitions “a running gag.” Art schools were “the most stupid of all educational institutions.” The art market was like “screwing your dick to the wall.” (A nude photo of the artist suggests this would have been an extensive task.) He referred to himself variously as “a woman,” “an alky,” “a sales representative,” and “the holy Saint Martin.”
He led a peripatetic life. Early in his career he settled in Florence, trying to become a film actor. Then he moved to Berlin, where he co-founded the gallery/crash pad “Kippenbergers Buro,” ran a nightclub, and started a punk band. In one memorable incident, he went into a bar and acted like a Nazi until patrons beat him up. Then he painted a picture of himself, battered and bandaged. (Another aphorism: “You may behave like an asshole, but you must never be one.”)
This international group exhibition is an Hommage a this important artist on the late 20th Century.