PRINT April 1991


THE RECEIVED VIEW OF Sigmar Polke’s art is that it responds and corresponds to an international culture awash with disposable images whose plenitude flattens their meaning and whose reproducibility deprives them of origins. When I first saw his work, in the early 1980s, I felt relief, not that it was less pessimistic than I had expected, but that it was more puzzling. Polke’s paintings showed that it is possible to do well—without pretension or preciousness—what David Salle was already famous for doing shabbily, with opportunistic haste: to layer images from disparate contexts so as to engender what might be called a field of contextlessness. What makes Polke’s art confirming is that it constructs distinctly pictorial sensations that both connect it to the lineage of modern painting and acknowledge the inescapable perception of all artifacts as indeterminately interpretable by dint of

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