Martin Kippenberger

Galerie Bleich-Rossi

There’s a new butt for jokes in Germany. Following the proud owners of the East German Trabant, now Opel Manta drivers are in the limelight. Film directors have already picked them as lead actors in their comedies. The Manta is not just any old sports car; its body isn’t bursting with elegance, and its whining motor doesn’t sound like power unleashed. And still it’s a sports car, a sports car for the everyman, and good enough for a quick getaway at the corner, or to leave a lasting impression on your favorite friseuse. Martin Kippenberger likes to use jokes. He dives into Manta–mania, and fearlessly slogs through the deepest swamps of vulgar emotions. Art and dumb jokes, two mutually repellant elements: he assembles them into units loaded with tension. Kippenberger had eight dashboards carved out of tree trunks—a strange collision of technology and handicraft. But only when one discovered that they were reconstructions of Opel Mantas did the work unfold in all its humorous glory. In this exhibition, auto parts made of wood filled the rooms of the gallery. One of these sculptures functioned as a stumbling block at the entrance; another was mounted on a radiator at the height where one usually finds the dashboard in a sports car. Three wooden components were assembled into a “funeral pyre” in the middle of the room.

Kippenberger exhibited together with his assistants, Merlin Carpenter, Michael Krebber, and Ulrich Strothjohann, underlining the pedagogical function that has characterized his work since he began teaching at the academy in Frankfurt. It emphasizes the role of the contemporary artist as organizer and producer, as well as one who seldom executes a project himself, but rather leaves the nitty-gritty to his assistants. Only in one case is there a direct collaboration: on top of one of Kippenberger’s dashboards, a huge, green velvet cloth spreads out, much like moss covering wood, and fills most of the middle room of the gallery. Strothjohann adds a further signifying accent to this work with his golf course photograph which is placed on the velvet. The cloth becomes an aristocratic green playground for the rich and nouveau riche. Strothjohann’s photoseries, “Löcher dieser Welt” (The holes of this world, 1991) is otherwise undistinguished. The idea of photographing different kinds of holes in different parts of the world is seriously compromised by his unintentionally dilettantish use of photography. The works on paper by Carpenter also lack maturity. In both content and form, his visual language is still too arbitrary and unfocused. The overpaintings of fashion photos seem the most promising. The work of Krebber, on the other hand, was thoroughly convincing. At first glance, one believes one is looking at a painting on the wall done in White paint on a black ground inside a colored frame.

Moving closer, one recognizes, from the yellow edges, that the supposed painting is a readymade representing a Kodak film carton turned inside out. The white lines on the black cardboard of the inside of the carton become the viewer’s lure.

Justin Hoffman

Translated from the German by Leslie Strickland.