Polke, Sigmar

Polke, Sigmar,

1941–2011, innovative German artist best known for his paintings and photography. His family immigrated from East to West Germany in 1953, and he lived in Düsseldorf, studying (1961–67) at the Art Academy. In the 1960s he and Gerhard RichterRichter, Gerhard
, 1932–, German painter, b. Dresden, studied Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden (1951–56) and Düsseldorf (1961–63). Widely considered one of the foremost painters of his generation, he lived for nearly 30 years in East Germany where, cut off
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 founded a style they called "Capitalist Realism," a version of pop artpop art,
movement that restored realism to avant-garde art; it first emerged in Great Britain at the end of the 1950s as a reaction against the seriousness of abstract expressionism.
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 with an edge of irreverence, sarcasm, and social criticism. Polke's complex paintings are both figurative and abstract, often mingling the two. He also often dotted his images in imitation of halftone photographs, layered images one upon the other, and employed unusual media such as dust, coffee, fabric, and radioactive material. In later paintings, he used materials that change depending on temperature, time, light, or other factors, and experimented with methods of capturing movement. In the mid-1960s he began making photographs. His photographic images, which reflect his worldwide travels and his life in Hamburg and Cologne, were often manipulated using unusual darkroom techniques.


See K. Halbreich et al., ed., Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963–2010 (museum catalog, 2014).

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