Thirty photographs created between 1969 and 1974 by Sigmar Polke. These highly personal images come from the collection of Mariette Althaus, Polke’s girlfriend during that time. The subject matter ranges from the erotic to the euphoric, laced with Polke’s signature: a sardonic sensibility.
During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Polke shed his German Pop roots for the more formally layered style that would permit him to fuse subject and process, provocatively and inextricably, in his paintings and with palpable potency, in his photography. With one foot in the overtly figurative, the works in this exhibition offer a window into the uncompromising experimentations with flaring and layering that were about to be conceived. Bice Curiger’s description of this synthesis- the eroticism captured in the picture…makes the silver of the photograph ‘blush’- articulates Polke as image-maker and sorcerer.
Mariette, in sundry states of grace, is the subject of the majority of the photographs. The sexualized spirit of the ‘60s and ‘70s literally bleeds through the photographic paper, caressing the naked bodies of Mariette and friends in gardens of earthly delights. In subject and in the form-flaring effects, the veiling, and the soft sensuality of the printing, the series captures the rapture in Polke’s personal life and in his subject-accentuating artistic development.
In the early ‘70s financial remuneration finally synchronized with critical appreciation of Polke. This confluence is captured in a photograph of Mariette, gleefully fanning herself with the cache of cash from the artist’s first major sale. And so it goes with Polke, who uses his muse as a mirror to reveal beautiful imperfections and spontaneous reactions. Wry and sly, his art has continued to defy categorization.
A boxed publication including an essay by Mariette Althaus and 32 actual size Polke images accompany the exhibition and is available for purchase through Nyehaus.