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MOCA Organizes First Major U.S. Retrospective of Influential German Artist Martin Kippenberger

LOS ANGELES.- The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), presents Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective, the first major retrospective exhibition to be mounted in the United States of the work of Martin Kippenberger (1953–97). One of the most significant, relevant, and influential artists of our time, Kippenberger produced a complex and richly prolific body of work from the mid-1970s until his untimely death in 1997 at the age of 44. Organized by MOCA Senior Curator Ann Goldstein, this large-scale exhibition is a comprehensive examination of the artist’s expansive 20-year career. Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective is on view at two locations, MOCA Grand Avenue and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, from September 21, 2008 through January 5, 2009. The exhibition then travels to The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where it is on view from March 1 through May 11, 2009.

Kippenberger’s life and work were inextricably linked in an exceptional practice that centered on the role of the artist in the culture and within the system of art. With references, subjects, and sources as wide-ranging and diverse as his production, his oeuvre examined and expanded upon that role as he also cast himself as impresario, entertainer, curator, collector, architect, and publisher. Kippenberger drew from popular culture, art, architecture, music, politics, history, and his own life—no subject was sacred. He was an exceptional appropriator—transforming, challenging, and occupying his subjects with incisive criticism, self-deprecating humor, vulnerability, and pathos.

“Martin Kippenberger’s reputation as a key figure in late 20th-century art has extended from Europe right here to Los Angeles, as his influence is felt not only by his colleagues and peers, but also by a subsequent generation of artists and students,” said MOCA Director Jeremy Strick. “With this exhibition, MOCA is very pleased to bring Kippenberger’s unique sensibility and practice to a wider audience, many of whom will be encountering his work for the first time. It is especially fitting that the first U.S. Kippenberger retrospective was organized in Los Angeles, where the artist made an enormous impact, along with many personal and professional connections, during his stay between 1989 and 1990.”

Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective assembles key selections and bodies of work from 1977 to 1997—including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, installations, multiples, photographs, posters, announcement cards, and books—in order to fully represent the artist’s exceptional and cohesive oeuvre. Working with the support of Estate Martin Kippenberger, Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne, as well as private and institutional collections in Europe and the United States, this first American retrospective offers new insights into the accomplishments and complexities of the artist’s remarkable practice. At MOCA, the main body of the exhibition will be presented at MOCA Grand Avenue, with the presentation of additional works including the remarkable large-scale installation The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s “Amerika” (1994) at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. While this monumental work has been shown on a number of occasions in Europe, it has only been shown twice in the United States, most recently in 2000.

Included among the many series and bodies of work represented will be selections from the following: the renowned self-portraits that Kippenberger produced throughout his career in all media; the Lieber Maler, male mir (Dear Painter, Paint for Me) painting series of the early 1980s; the Die I.N.P. Bilder (Is Not Embarrassing Pictures), Preis Bilder (Prize Pictures), and No Problem painting series of the 1980s (including the 1986 work The Problem Perspective. You are not the problem, it's the problem maker in your head, which serves as the title of the exhibition); a reunion of key works from his breakthrough 1987 exhibition of sculpture Peter. Die russische Stellung (Peter. The Russian Position); the “drunken” lanterns and other important sculptures of the late 1980s and 1990s; and the two later series Das Floss der Medusa (The Raft of Medusa) and Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn’t Paint Anymore. The exhibition will also prominently feature numerous examples of the Hotel drawings and other works on paper; photographic works; and selections from the artist’s prolific production of printed matter, including books, editions, multiples, and large-scale presentations of his exhibition posters and announcement cards—all of which are central to Kippenberger’s oeuvre.

As exhibition curator Ann Goldstein writes in her catalogue essay: “…Kippenberger challenged and re-envisioned the role of an artist. His was an unsettling presence, breaching the boundaries that reinforce conventions and decorum in order to articulate and objectify the connections and relationships between an individual and their culture… He leaves an exhaustive and challenging oeuvre, a few lifetimes of work in just twenty years, with numerous trails of associations that will take many years and many exhibitions to unfold. It is a most problematic practice—and that is its great gift.”

Born in 1953 in Dortmund, Germany, Martin Kippenberger attended the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Visual Arts) in Hamburg. He was a peripatetic artist, taking up residence in numerous cities throughout his career, including Florence, Berlin, Paris, Cologne, Madrid, Los Angeles, Frankfurt, and Vienna. His work has been frequently exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions in the United States and throughout Europe. He was included in the 1988 and 2003 Venice Biennales, and in Documenta X in 1997. A major retrospective of his work, Respektive 1997–1976, organized by Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Geneva, opened just two months before he died in March 1997. Numerous survey exhibitions followed after his death, including several in 2003, on the occasion of the artist’s 50th birthday year (in Karlsruhe, Tübingen, and Braunschweig, Germany; Eindhoven, The Netherlands; and Vienna, Austria). In 2006, Tate Modern, London, and K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, jointly organized Martin Kippenberger. MOCA’s exhibition is the first major American museum exhibition of Kippenberger’s work to be mounted in over 15 years.

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