Rosemarie Trockel

This exhibition of new works by Rosemarie Trockel constitutes a virtually unified scenic entity. Film, sculpture, drawing, and painting, as well as objects, are fused here into a coherent mental and visual grid. In a very broad sense, these grids address the concepts of sacrifice, femininity, and dissidence, but internally, the grids also contain smaller units of dialogue. In a gallery devoted to showing the work of painters like Georg Baselitz, Markus Lüpertz, and A. R. Penck, Trockel’s works undermine the usual program. She approaches painting from the outside; for her, the painter’s tool is a merry machine. Instead of a grandiloquent painterly rhetoric, Trockel’s paintings offer the esthetic counterpoint: fine filigree within a restrained abstract structure.

The painting machine itself, a simple, almost crude technical construction, functions like a stencil instrument: 56 brushes, made of the hair of 56 artists, are dipped in paint or India ink and then moved across the surface. Eight sets of seven brushes each paint seven arches. Hanging on the gallery wall, with its brushes cleaned and its mechanism at rest, this machine looks likea multileveled work of art. Simultaneously a concrete device for producing or transmitting creative energy, a fantasy machine to manufacture art with programmed random elements a la Tinguely, and a simple meta-art object, this work’s subtle humor cannot be overlooked.

The path through the exhibition runs on, past an oxymoronic knitted picture: “Please don’t do anything to me. And fast!” This is a rebuff of the tendency to define victims and perpetrators as constitutionally opposite. Three bronze sculptures cast from real animal bodies depict familiar creatures tormented by human beings—Reh (Doe), Dackel (Dachsund), and Betrunkener Hund (Drunken dog; all works 1990.) In the videos derived from films, prey and predator meet similar fates.

The eye-catching sculpture at the gallery entrance, entitled It’s a Tough Job, But Somebody Has To Do It, includes a cow’s udder as one of its components. Art is a teat, a functionalized gland milked by the gallery business; art becomes an oblation, an object placing itself in relation to forces of exploitation. The thematization of the female is also taken up in Profumo, a piece that employs a two-way mirror, of the sort used in interrogation rooms at police stations, to conjure up the dubious role played by Christine Keeler (was she or wasn’t she a victim?) in the celebrated 1963 affair. Earnest, committed, restrained, and tinged with humor, these individual pieces with motifs derived both from the world of subjective experience and from the public or art sphere always refer to “the other,” that is, to contents beyond the purely visible. Yet they do not aim at forcing us entirely out of the—perhaps masculine?—established order.

Norbert Messler

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.