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Martin Kippenberger in New York

German artist Martin Kippenberger has a retrospective at MoMa in New York called "The Problem Perspective" until May 11th.

Kippenberger died in 1997 at age of 44, but in 20 years of production he created a tremendous amount of paintings, sculptures, drawings, installations, cards and books. He was a teacher, dancer, musician, performer and publisher of books as well.

Behind his universality and striving in all directions it wasn’t really clear, if he was a real serious artist. He produced so-called bad paintings, cheeky drawings on hotel-notepaper, and his captions were filled with a desperate humour. Kippenberger painted himself as a middle-aged Picasso in boxer shorts, his famous statement has been: "I can’t cut off my ear everyday", and his piece entitled "With the Best Will in the World I Can’t See a Swastika" is realized as a milestone of German post-war art in the United States right now. One year before his death, in 1996, Kippenberger drew himself posed as the doomed figures in Théodore Géricault’s painting "Raft of the Medusa". In 1997, the New York Times described him in an obituary as the most important post-war artist since Joseph Beuys. At that time he still wasn’t accepted in his mother country Germany.

When he arrived on the art scene, the defining impulses of late-20th-century art (Pop, Minimalism, Conceptualism,
Neo-Expressionism) were old. With his creative power he took what was there (including the diminished role of the artist), and moved into something new. "He customized", so the New York Times wrote in an enthusiastic review, "Neo-Expressionism, hot in Germany in the 1980s, into a klutzy, jokey style, all flat-footed brushwork and snide asides. He made figure painting, popular for its accessibility, hard to read." Ann Temkin, MoMA’s chief curator, described Kippenberger as a man who made art out of everything. In his hands, nothing was save.

And he made his paintings a database of art: here he could evaluate, mix or pull apart ideas like success, failure, familiar styles and everything he loved: Pablo Picasso, Pop, Francis Picabia, Socialist Realism and Joseph Beuys. His most faszinating piece of art is a last installation made in 1994, called "The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s America", which finishes Kafka’s uncompleted novel from 1927. In Kafka’s novel, a young German called Karl Rossman - looking for a job - arrives in an employment agency for immigrants in the United States. Kippenberger transforms this "examination" - in his installation the agency becomes a sports arena with dozens of different tables and chairs on a sheet of green cloth with the size of a basketball court: a brainy-surrealistic-pop-ready-made-strangeland-stage.

Martin Kippenberger died too early, but still is very alive. If you take a look at some anarchic paintings by André Butzer, you can see him, and the spirit of "The Happy End of Franz Kafka’s America" illuminates Jason Rhoades installation "Uno Momento/The Theatre In My Dick/A Look To The Physical/Ephemeral" as well.

Martin Kippenberger: The Problem Perspective on at MoMa, New York until 11th May.