First the Feet

By Roberto Ohrt. Excerpt from the book 'Kippenberger'

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He preferred to have completed his pictures quickly, before there was time for problems, improvements or admiration, or for any interest in more precision-work or special effects to develop. For this they never come across as long-winded, tortured or profound - unless (of course) a particular theme required stylistic quotations from such a repertoire. For the friends of the Duktus, he was content mostly with a few sprays of transparent silicone. Flotter Dreier (p. 86/87) presents this procedure of appropriating and scrapping stylistic quotations in a short sequence. The Heavy Metal band Motörhead is honored à la Corinth in symbols of dashing bravura. The Coliseum comes into the picture as a towel or beach motif - flat, as Pop - and the fragment of sea - typical of a painter, a battle at Cape Alcohol - can be laid as a storm over high waves of silicone. Colors, technique, and material often have a certain added, signal quality in Martin Kippenberger's work. They are "contrast enhanced", as they say in advertising, prepared in such a way as to attract greater attention. Means are intended to come across as specially made, as substance, as style, as the use of colors and materials in a particular environment, in murals with neon light effects for black light, with the unexpected return to kitsch. They are marked by intended and unintended recognition values, colored by promises, didactically impasto, or else aim to have selection values operate as the image of the range of paints for the shiny object in the garage.

Enriched by this selection of available forms of expression and ways of seeing, we are concerned once more with abstract art, with figuration or nonfigurative painting, with its contact to all those awful colors and other atrocities which, like the doggy that's been to the vet, are enumerated across a spectrum. And we learn once more to co-ordinate the narrowed gaze and the protected orientation with movement of the legs. The pictures activate a feeling for life constantly encountering its own construction - today, new and elemental, tomorrow, burlap and prestige. It is the world of prattling goods, clever style and over-subtle imitations, a world full of "metaphysical moods". Edouard Manet had already recognized it as a domain of painting, with its left-handed guitarists, breakfast against an open-air backdrop, and moodily veering winds above a sea like a fluttering cloth. Francis Picabia dealt beholding it a major blow when he deleted the clause concerning the ability to recognize his craftsmanship from the contractual conditions covering the place of the artist.

Eight paintings for thinking over if it can continue this way

By 1981 at the latest, with Lieber Maler, male mir [Dear Painter, Paint For Me] , Martin Kippenberger made clear that he saw not just the modern world, but also painting and painters as objects of his art. For that exhibition he hired a cinema poster painter who knew all about large-format advertising and consequently was able to master the large-scale work required. The outward signs of the technique - photographic originals, soft colors from the can, a flat application with the brush - stood for the heralding of the great world of the cinema. In this way the artist gave his wish machine the appropriate motifs, with assorted moments of uniqueness, and the loss of its exposed character.

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Martin Kippenberger after the opening of an exhibition by Hubert Kiecol, Gallery Bärbel Grässlin, Frankfurt am Main, 1985. Foto: Wilhelm Schürmann