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For the first time outside Germany: Sigmar Polke's complete graphic works in Sao Paulo
A view of the exhibition 'Capitalist realism and another ilustrated stories' by German artist Sigmar Polke at Art Museum of Sao Paulo, Brazil. EPA/SEBASTIAO MOREIRA.

SAO PAULO.- After organizing the special and prized exhibition German Contemporary Painting and inaugurating the international tour of Places, Strange and Quiet, a photo show by Wim Wenders, MASP creates and produces Sigmar Polke – Capitalist Realism and other illustrated histories, an exhibition with the complete series of graphic works (edition prints, 1963-2009) and other objects by the German visual artist, plus the series Day by Day (mixed media) which was a thrill in the 13th Art Biennial of São Paulo in 1975, when Polke received the first prize for painting.

In the first international exhibition of the German artist Sigmar Polke after his death in June, 2010, at the age of 69, MASP presents the complete series of graphic works (edition prints) created by this visual artist between 1963 and 2009. On the whole, more than 220 pieces lent by the collectionist Axel Ciesielski plus 25 works in mixed media of the series Day by Day, created by Polke for the International Art Biennial of São Paulo in 1975, which were lent for this exhibition by another private collection. After the show German Contemporary Painting and Places, Strange and Quiet, photos by Wim Wenders, both brought to São Paulo last year, the exhibition SIGMAR POLKE – Capitalist Realism and other illustrated histories makes MASP stand out in the international scene of the contemporary production. Curated by Tereza Arruda with the collaboration of Teixeira Coelho, this show may be seen from October 28 to January 29, 2012.

Considered one of the most significant creative forces of post-War Europe, Polke was born in 1941 in Silesia – a region incorporated by Eastern Germany in 1949 and today shared by Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. When 12 years old he moves, along with his family, to the then Western Germany and at 20 years-old he is accepted by the Art Academy of Düsseldorf. In 1963, he becomes known when organizing, with his classmates Gerhard Richter and Konrad Fischer (then Konrad Lueg), the performance and later the movement called Capitalist Realism, so named in order to make a satire of the Socialist Realism, the official aesthetic and artistic doctrine of the Soviet Union, and also to criticize the market-driven art world in Western capitalism.

In the 70s his work focuses mainly on photographic production and manipulation, amid his many world travels. In 1975, he becomes the great star of the 13th Art Biennial of São Paulo by winning the grand prize of painting and presenting the series Day by Day (mixed media), which MASP now presents in its original format for the first time. In the 80s, he experiments with different kinds of paint, chemicals and solvents and in 1986 he receives the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennial for his installation Athanor, with a paint developed by him based on pigments that reacted to the local light and dampness by changing color. The prize reinforced his name as one of the most important of German art, besides Richter, Joseph Beuys, Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer.

Above all, Sigmar Polke was a free iconoclast spirit. The fact that his work cannot be included in any specific school or style is, per se, the best definition of his work.

Sigmar Polke, the freedom to want by Teixeira Coelho, curator of MASP. Extracts: (...) When words lack to seize something, to explain something even if only to oneself, when one is not able to really understand, vague terms come to the rescue: Polke was called a pop artist, of the pop version that came from beyond the Iron Curtain or the Berlin Wall. To say this is too little, nothing actually. There are more fitting expressions for Polke. In 2004, again the Tate, now the Modern, from London, presented a comprehensive exhibition of his work. This exhibition came under a title that expressed well whatever would be seen: History of Everything. The title of the exhibition was: Sigmar Polke: History of Everything. And Polke made precisely that, a history of everything. His art is an art of the history of everything. History is, history still is the main character and one of the central drives of the work of many German artists, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Keefer and Neo Rauch, to name just a few among the most relevant (with some who were caught unawares by History). And it is also in and for Polke. But in fact Polke, even more than the others, really composed, with his varied work in painting, gouache, print, photos and films, a history of everything.

A history from soccer to politics, passing by the Olimpic Games and contemporary everyday scenes. Of Germany and the world. (...)People say that an artist should have a say about the world so that whatever he or she says will add to the world. What Polke has to say about the world is a lot. It is everything, almost everything, everything possible. But whatever he says of relevant about the world, when he says it about art it is about the mode of liberty, the mode of liberty to wish. That is what can be identified in Polke when one can see him among others: the wish of freedom to want, very hard to practice, very hard even to imagine, a freedom that in art is divine. Such as in fields of life.

Capitalist realism and other illustrated histories, by Tereza Arruda, curator. Extract: (...)Polke’s alchemy was made up by intuition, planning and chance, besides, of course, by every kind of materiality that crossed his path. Experimental curiosity was always a part of his life practice. It is due to this detachment and indefatigable laboratorial disposition that we have works so rich in diversity in the show we present. The path goes through diferent techniques of printing, collage, assemblage, drawing, photography, painting on paper, newspaper, plastic sheets, metallic material, among others. It is worth stressing that for Sigmar Polke his production of works on paper stands at the same level with his painting, not being a secondary or occasional production. The artist dedicated himself continuously to this technique, open to the research of new materials that appeared in the market along time.

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October 31, 2011

For the first time outside Germany: Sigmar Polke's complete graphic works in Sao Paulo

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