Rosemarie Trocke, review by Marianne Van Boxelaere
Housed in Wiels, a former brewery turned exhibition venue, Flagrant Delight is the first major exhibition of Rosemarie Trockel in Belgium, and is a continuation of her shows Die Verflüssigung der Mutter (2010, Kunsthalle Zürich) and Post-Menopause (2006, Ludwig Museum Cologne). In these exhibitions, works from several periods were grouped randomly without direct link and with no clear beginning or end. Eschewing chronology, we find her earlier work such as the 1970 drawing, Childless Figure, next to photographic stills taken from her videos of 2010. The form of Flagrant Delight is an extension of the work’s own logic which itself is based on free-associations and loose references. This results in an oeuvre that consists of a varied and at times disparate contrast in form, material and thus consequently, the work’s content. By employing such a diverse array of techniques and materials, Trockel invites the spectator to attempt to grasp the work’s often slippery meanings which in turn allows meaning itself to operate peripherally. In this way, though dealing with certain concerns, Trockel’s works is purposefully and perfectly left open for interpretation.
Her baroque and opulent ceramic sculptures on the second floor are exhibited in stark contrast next to more introverted ones. Trockel chooses artisanal and fragile objects with tactile and colourful finishes to introduce a break with the industrial materials which she used in Untitled (2000), a work consisting of 15 hot plates of steel with rusted surfaces. This juxtaposition establishes a bridge between the traditionally feminine domain of cooking and the masculine domain of industrial production.
Born and raised in West Germany, Rosemarie Trockel studied maths and religion before turning to art. Trockel’s development took place in a male-dominated German art scene populated with figures such as Joseph Beuys (whose pedagogic presence and political activism loomed over the postwar rebirth of German art), and the painters Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter. Neither a student of Beuys nor a member of the Düsseldorf Academy circles, Trockel retained independence from the dominating masculine presence of the previous generation.
Around 1983 she became more concerned with feminist ideologies and concepts when she began to work with close friend and gallerist Monika Sprüth. Sprüth’s gallery at that time was exclusively devoted to female artists including Americans Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, and Cindy Sherman as well as Europeans such as Astrid Klein and Sylvie Fleury. During that time, Trockel made her now recognisable wool paintings and textile reliefs, which are shown extensively on the third floor. The decision to use ‘typically feminine materials and techniques’ is intended to affirm her dissatisfaction at the marginalised position of female artists. To keep her work from falling into categories of craft or virtuosity, Trockel’s knitted pictures are not actually hand-made but rather designed on a computer and then machine-made. By conjoining the spheres of craft, art, and the mechanical, they in fact sustain reference to seemingly contradictory associations with domestic, cultural, industrial, and technological orientations.
Concepts of distinction and free association are also represented in the series of recent, large-scale collages Trockel has been making since 2004. The vantage point of these pieces summarises the exhibition as a whole; Trockel is an artist that reworks and re-imagines her own oeuvre, iconography, sensitivities and themes in an impulsive yet always direct manner.