First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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The slogan is once more written on the picture in transparent silicone, this time: from flesh into flesh. Like a magician, the artist always has too much of the valuable substances. And of course, at least some of the stories are involved. For some, the composite canvas might be the picture of the path to divorce, for others possibly that he already talked too much on the wedding day and didn't come to the point. In the argumentation developed here, the picture stands for the mediation of the hands between the body and the thing. Via the portrait of the media figure - the disaster that has overtaken public space and the accident-prone Peter in the private house or apartment - the theme of the body came to be seen ever more clearly and more deliberately negotiated. The 1988 oil pictures create a new dimension of presence in this development. Hitherto, Martin Kippenberger had not used himself as a showcase in such an extreme fashion, at least not in his pictures. He painted himself onto the canvas as a floppy jelly-fish, virtually devoid of clear contours, in oversize underpants, his hands odd, confused or numb, as in the feelings experienced in a dream, when the extremities of the limbs have "gone to sleep". In many of these pictures he's fiddling around with a Peter, heaving the oversize volume of his torso against one of the failed items of furniture, or compares how the two of them get "out of joint". He depicts himself as the bad master of these things, but the hands getting out of his control are not so much a blunt instrument as the interface, the medium of comparison; their sign makes the physicality of the Peter visible, makes it an image of his own, in which he remains the clumsy helmsman of himself.

Those reliefs "painted" in latex in 1991 (p. 172) are doubtless also to be understood in this connection. The surface of the "canvas" was now not just soft as skin, it also yielded just as uncontrollably as the contours of the human body or the posture of a Peter. The entire vocabulary which Martin Kippenberger had created for himself was suspended from the various pictures of the black and beige latex series as though there were no counterweight, no echo, on the part of the beholder. The message "M. d. D. s. n." or Mach' doch Dich selber nach [Copy Yourself, Then] makes it clear that he still had enough references in his own work when stimuli and pressure from elsewhere wouldn't come. And to this reference, his own body, appeared the cactus with needles in rubber and hat, a prickly hat game or morning ghost.

The so-called Handpainted Pictures of 1992 sharpened the depiction of the "figure with hand" yet further. Its body now loses itself in the almost totally emptied space of the painting. Some canvases become once more the venue of the entry such has Martin Kippenberger had earlier much needed: divide the rectangle at the start into four different color fields that create the space and the problems needed to continue. But then there are hardly any more objects; what remains are blank areas, the colors pale. On one picture, the painter squats down as a runner at the start of a race, the only protagonist far and wide. He's waiting for the gun, but the race is already over, there's no longer any time to disappear. The system Heute denken, morgen fertig [Think today, ready tomorrow] , the guarantee of a practice which will not be overtaken by its own abilities, successes or predilections, has lost a day out of its life. The body experiences a greatly distorted release in the lapsed period of time. Demonstrated with the hands, pulled over the thin surface and only hurriedly "hand-painted", he presents himself as a theme that also distorts the letters and tendency of the old anarchist slogan: "Break the things that break you", and he crushes an egg.
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Martin Kippenberger in front of his studio in Essen Kettwig, 1982. Foto: Wilhelm Schürmann
Martin Kippenberger, Social crate transporter, 1991. Painted wood, plastic, 65 1/4 x 227 x 46 inches. (c) Estate of Martin Kippenberger