SIGMAR POLKE. STARTING FROM WILLICH. PHOTOGRAPHS 1973-78

30 MAY- 25 JULY 2015

Preview image

Sigmar Polke, ohne Titel (Willich, Gaspelshof), 1975, Silbergelatineabzug
21 x 29,5 cm.

The Michael Werner Kunsthandel is delighted to present the exhibition „Starting from Willich. Photographs 1973 -1978“ which represents an unusual insight into Sigmar Polke’s photographic work in the 1970’s. The majority of the 80 + photographs in the show have not been on public display before. The exhibition centres around the „Gaspelshof“ in Willich, Niederrhein, where Polke lived and worked with a group of friends for several years. In fact the conditions and experiences related to this location exert an influence not only his photographic work, but on the whole of Polke’s creative work of that period. For the collective the camera was a kind of amusement, but for the artist himself the crucial transformation took place in the dark room, where the negatives were subjected to a critical revision process involving the use of numerous chemicals to produce unique photographic originals. It is „in the nature of his personal make up that the artist himself figures prominently in many of the works. […] spontaneous masquerades and disguises create a clown-like imaginarium“ (Laszlo Glozer). Willich itself becomes a focal point – a point of departure for the artist‘s trips to various destinations such as Münster, Kassel, Sicily, Sao Paulo and Zurich. In particular, it is Zurich and its 1970’s alternative scene that takes on a permanent significance for the artist.

Polke started experimenting with multiple exposure, solarisation and chemical processing as early as the 1960’s. From the outset, he was fascinated by the potential for creating unreal, transcendental and spontaneous images. He played with the effect of silver salts and gelatin emulsion on photographic paper in a form of creative chemistry. Polke used the medium of photography, which is historically so closely associated with the reproduction of „realistic images“, to create his unique artistic originals that have had a profound influence on contemporary photography. In this sense, his work harks back to elements of Surrealist photography. Indeed the reference to Max Ernst and René Magritte in one of his works from 1978 can be seen as confirmation of this. The artist’s depth of perception, sense of composition and technical know-how make him one of the pioneers of artistic photography. „However unjustifiable this may sound, once you have entered into his world everything else seems bland“ (Laszlo Glozer).

The exhibition will be accompanied by an extensive book with a text by Laszlo Glozer, published by Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König.