In the nineties critical art starts to take centre stage in the exploits of a generation that are undoubtedly moving away from the constraints of genre, medium and media, continuing the trend started in the sixties by artists such as Joseph Beuys (questioning traditional artistic materials) and Andy Warhol (who established the direct relationship between art, consumption and assembly line production); moreover, there are numerous cases in which critical value ends up as an aesthetic category. Rosemarie Trockel (Schwerte, Germany, 1952) is one of the forerunners of this generation. Intent on questioning images, signs and messages commonly agreed upon by culture and tradition, Trockel's works aim to reflect on the possible alternatives locked in signs, bearing witness to meaning not as an inherent factor, but as something unstable, an historical and contextually conditioned attribute.
This exhibition considers the way Trockel unfurls her message through using irony and the devaluation of signs. On one side, the shift of signs towards propaganda for decorative purposes, which can be seen in her textile paintings (actually computer designed and made by machine), for instance in her 1987 piece where a pattern of a woman appears, iconographically reminiscent of Russian Constructivism, brandishing a sickle, and the latent irony in Painting machine and 56 brush strokes (1990), in which the brushes have been made from locks of hair from 56 artists. On the other side, Trockel resolves to suggest alternative associations as she insists on using domestic and daily objects; Sidra Stich, the exhibit's curator alongside Elizabeth Sussman, notes how, “She evokes stereotypes to then knock them down.” This is evident throughout her work as she calls into question the representation of women in modern society, enclosed in the capitalist tyranny of image consumption substantiated by the atavistic principles of their social role and duties (objects of desire, subjected to conventions of beauty, reduced to manual work in the workplace).
Around 1983 Trockel begins to focus on particularly feminist iconography, choosing painting, sculpture and drawing as her mediums over the dominance of video and performance at the time. Elisabeth Sussman notes how significant this is as: “Towards 1985 Trockel can be seen producing a series of images generated from the critical perspectives that would dominate the decade: sexuality and its representation in the world of commerce and consumption.” This assertion is updated and confirmed by Trockel herself as she states how the constant themes in her work are women, contradictions and a reaction against precepts in fashion.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (April 3 - May 12, 1991); University of California, Berkeley Art Museum (June 12 - September 8, 1991); Museum of Contemporay Art, Chicago (September 28 - November 10, 1991); The Power Plant, Toronto (January 17 - March 1, 1992)