The Museum of Contemporary Art is tackling one of the art world’s edgiest characters with “Martin Kippenberger: Problem Perspective.” Ann Goldstein, MOCA senior curator, spoke to Times staff writer Suzanne Muchnic about highlights from the exhibition of Kippenberger’s work.
‘The Happy End of Franz Kafka‘s “Amerika” ’
Mixed media installation, 1994
“This epic piece brings together a lot of ideas in Kippenberger’s work. It comes from a scene in Kafka’s unfinished novel in which the protagonist goes to a huge job recruitment center in Oklahoma and finds an endless grid of tables, each with two chairs, where interviews are going on.
The floor of the installation is a large green field, modeled on a soccer field. On it are dozens of vignettes of tables and chairs, representing encounters between interviewers and interviewees. Some of the furniture came from Kippenberger’s collection; other pieces were constructed by him and other artists.
He produced the work in 1994 at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. In the United States, it has been seen at the 1999 Carnegie International in Pittsburgh and the Renaissance Society in Chicago. We will show it with an element that isn’t always included: bleacher-like seating for spectators.
Kippenberger places the interview vignettes in the context of a competitive game on a soccer field. Then he takes the situation one step further by turning it into a spectator sport. You can’t enter the work, but you can watch from the bleachers. He was concerned about the artist’s role and function in society, so you can imagine one of the encounters as an artist trying to convince someone of his significance and value. It’s a powerful statement.” (Estate of Martin Kippenberger / MOCA)
Oil on canvas, 1988
“KIPPENBERGER’S life and work were inextricably intertwined. In his self-portraits we see this idea of an artist who assumes various guises and engages in role-playing. He renders himself as strikingly unglamorous, particularly in the 1988 series that he made in Madrid, in which he models himself after an image of Picasso in his underwear. In this painting, we see Kippenberger in big Picasso underwear and a beard, pushing out his belly. This is also an example of how he would recycle images. He paints himself with a sculpture from his ‘Peter’ series, called ‘Worktimer’ -- a strange . . . cart with two briefcases hanging from it. In the background is a big balloon. It may refer to floating, inflation or an unfixed position. He once talked about the rounded shape of the balloon as having a similarity to the human body, but in contrast to the weight of the body, the balloon is buoyant and light.” (Estate Martin Kippenberger / MOCA)
Gerhard Richter painting from 1972, wood and metal, 1987
“IN KIPPENBERGER’S ‘Peter’ sculptures, his first foray into sculpture, he made a body of well over 40 works that were almost dysfunctional design objects cum sculptures. He combined found and newly constructed elements in pieces that refer to vernacular objects, architecture and works by artists such as Reinhard Mucha and Donald Judd. ‘Modell Interconti,’ which demonstrates his interest in Gerhard Richter, is a small table that he had made, using a small gray painting by Richter as the top. Kippenberger not only turned the Richter into a table, but also transformed it into a Kippenberger. He purchased the painting at a Richter market price, transformed it into a Kippenberger and sold it at a Kippenberger market price, which was much lower.” (Collection of Gaby and Wilhelm / MOCA)
Work from the series ‘Jacqueline: The Paintings Pablo Couldn’t Paint Anymore’
Oil on canvas, 1996
“In the ‘Jacquelines,’ one of Kippenberger’s last two series of self-portraits, he returned to Picasso with the idea that he could take over Picasso’s job by making paintings of his widow. In this one, she is wearing a cowboy hat; in its counterpart, also in the show, she is an Indian, wearing a Native American headdress. They are very sad images of Jacqueline, taken from photographs of her in various poses but based on photographs of Kippenberger made by his wife. What’s interesting is that these paintings have been discussed as self-portraits, with Kippenberger casting himself as a woman. He not only played with his likeness but with gender.” (Estate of Martin Kippenberger / MOCA)