First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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One of these pictures (p. 171) consists of some dovetailed confrontations, a weave of his own tricks - the canvas divided in four - with the picture of the hands before the belly. A number of opposites are attuned to one another in a simple arrangement and broken on one another. On top there is, colorless, drawn and dry, the broad area and the naked skin. At the bottom come the trousers, colored, painted and wet, and an addition to the space. At the top there is virtually no movement, light or time. At the bottom, rapid smears and shadows alternate; the arm presses forward, the hand is turned, the fingers are spread and claw like. This contrast is conspicuously strongly emphasized, but not consistently or smoothly executed. Above a fractured vertical which is merely hinted at, the flat area at the top, still fused with the body, distinguishes the one from the other exactly in the middle. Beneath the crooked arm appears the hint of a gap; a curious split opens up, as though it were going through a tear in the canvas. It is a picture that only proceeds with difficulty in any direction of its possible implementation and, basically, already puts on the brakes even before it has started to take the first step. Space and surface come together on the canvas like body and painting; and like something that pushes between both into the impossible or its destruction.

The Hotel-Drawings (p. 180 -193), which were done in Japan in 1994 in parallel with Happy End, the big nature theater of the chairs, speak drastically once more of the tension in which the picture of the body was used. They depict cityscapes and pornography, details of architecture mixed with scenes of sexual rituals; they deal with wire-rope constructions and stocking-suspenders, bondage and balustrades, sex and façades, comicsqueaks and neon signs. The picture of the chained body is brought into sharper focus under the influence of the alien cityscape; the Psychobuildings can now, right down to the last detail, be seen as the theater of physical excess, a collage of abstract buildings or discipline games, unassuming on the one hand, nothing more than a glass wall, and then in extreme close-up, the man chained as a dog and kept in the garden.

Never give up before it's too late

Between the lapdog of 1978/81 and the Handpainted Pictures there is not much more than a decade, and yet the distance seems much greater. With his sketches for German Pop, Martin Kippenberger had placed seemingly harmless children's kitsch on the art wish-list and stripped the terror of "intimacy" of its cuteness a good ten years before Jeff Koons. The oil-pictures of the 1990s staged physicality no longer as an exploding second of fright, but with other weights and realities, with a different hand. Even so, he kept his attention on complicated questions addressed to the nursery or on the joke of jokes, and in both, he continued to negotiate the matter which was so very close to the lapdog and yet so invisible.

Artists are "nerds" and have to keep their allotment in order. That was his friend Michael Krebber's answer to the question about the purpose of this whole exhibition theater. It got Martin Kippenberger onto the track of the famous case investigated by Sigmund Freud. [Translator's note:"allotment" or "rented garden plot" (see above) in German is "Schrebergarten", named after Dr. Daniel Gottlieb Moritz Schreber, a 19th-century doctor. He also had highly authoritarian views on child-rearing, and his discipline is thought by some to be the reason for the insanity of his son Paul, whose case was famously examined in retrospect by Freud.]
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Martin Kippenberger, Martin, into the corner with you and shame on you, 1989. Wood figure, plexiglass head, clothing, 69 x 31 1/2 x 15 3/4 inches. (c) Estate of Martin Kippenberger