Zwirner & Wirth is pleased to present an exhibition of American and German Pop Art. Scheduled to open on May 4 and close on July 1, 2005, this exhibition will examine some of the formal and conceptual concerns shared by the artists Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Konrad Lueg, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter.
Known mostly as an American phenomenon of the 1960s, Pop Art is characterized by a blurring of the boundaries between art and life in its exploration of such themes as consumerism, cultural icons, and mass-reproduced imagery. Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg (later known as the gallerist Konrad Fischer) traveled to Paris in 1963, where they declared themselves to be "German Pop artists" after visiting the galleries of Iris Clert and Ileana Sonnabend, who showed the leading American pop artists of the day. In the press release for the legendary 1963 Düsseldorf exhibition of the work of Lueg, Polke, Richter and Manfred Kuttner, organized by the artists and displayed in an empty butcher's shop, the artists wrote:
The value of the exhibition derives from the themes of the works on show. For the first time in Germany, these will include works that may be described as Pop Art, Imperialist or Capitalist Realism, New Sobriety, Naturalism, German Pop and the like. Pop Art recognizes the modern mass media as a genuine cultural phenomenon and draws, with artifice, on the attributes, formulations and contents of the modern mass media for its own artistic expression. Thus it is changing the face of modern painting, heralding an aesthetic revolution.*
They furthermore stated that Pop Art was "not an American import," declaring that on the contrary it was a matter of the "independent and organic" growth of art in Germany. The works in the exhibition by Lueg, Polke, and Richter will make evident that the Germans were not simply appropriating the Pop style, but that they were expanding upon it in their own right.
The exhibition will investigate a number of parallel themes addressed by these six artists within the specific contexts of postwar capitalism in America and Germany. Consumer culture is a dominant trope in Pop Art, and the exhibition will include a number of important related works, among them a selection of "box sculptures" from 1964 by Andy Warhol (such as Brillo Box and Campbell’s Box); Gerhard Richter's Toilet Paper (1965); a silk-screen painting by Konrad Lueg depicting a grid of supermarket prices (Untitled, 1967); Roy Lichtenstein's Hot Dog (1963); and an early sculpture by Claes Oldenburg from The Store–a 1961 exhibition on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where the artist sold sculptures of food and consumer goods in the rented shop in which they were made–titled Plate of Meat (1961).
Also on view will be a selection of paintings by Sigmar Polke that relate formally to Lichtenstein's Benday dot paintings and depict quotidian objects and imagery. Mass-reproduced imagery will recur in such works as Richter's Girl on a Donkey (1966), and we will be exhibiting an example of Warhol's Flowers paintings (1964) and Lueg's vinyl floral-patterned canvases from the mid-1960s, in which the artists elaborate upon the production of decorative motifs.
Other works in the exhibition will represent pop-cultural celebrities of the era. Konrad Lueg's Untitled [Double Portrait] (1963-64), which depicts two female heads, is formally reminiscent of Andy Warhol's serial compositions. The gallery will also present Warhol's iconic Four Marilyns (1962) and a multi-paneled work depicting Jacqueline Kennedy, titled 12 Jackies (Warhol, 1964), which relates to a life-sized sculpture of John F. Kennedy from 1963 that was collaboratively made by Lueg and Richter for their famous 1963 exhibition and "happening" at a rented furniture store, titled Living with Pop. A Demonstration for Capitalist Realism.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated exhibition catalogue with an essay by John Yau.
*Quoted in Martin Hentschel, "Solve et Coagula" in Sigmar Polke: The Three Lies of Painting (Ostfildern: Cantz, 1997), p.42.